Magazine article The Spectator

Flawless, Timeless, Almost Priceless

Magazine article The Spectator

Flawless, Timeless, Almost Priceless

Article excerpt

White diamonds are the world's most expensive gems. The ideal stone is like a piece of ice, whiter than white, graded 'D', the purest possible grading, and cut with exquisite precision. Only a handful exist. Ten years ago a pure white, pear-shaped 100.10 carat diamond (pictured here), classified as 'D' and internally flawless, was sold by Sotheby's in Geneva for $16,548,750.

Named 'The Star of the Season', it is still the most expensive precious stone ever sold at auction. Today its whereabouts are a closely guarded secret, but it is likely that it sits contentedly, if a little unloved, in a secure bank vault, handled on rare occasions by white-gloved admirers.

'In the main, ' says Matthew Girling of Bonhams, 'people buy jewellery to wear. But at the top end of the market there are people with deep pockets who might consider buying a diamond, a ruby or a sapphire for a very large amount, as part of a broader portfolio of investments. They tend to salt these things away in vaults, but they are attractive as investments because they are portable.' I let out a snort at the thought of the kind of people who might wish to flee with a handful of exceptional diamonds stuffed down their trousers. 'Well, if you're a Kuwaiti, for example, ' he continues, 'and you lost every piece of art and sculpture that you owned [when Saddam invaded], then jewellery might appeal to you as something you can move in a hurry.' Not many people keep their jewels permanently snuggled under a pillow of black velvet and locked in a strongroom.

Most collectors buy gems to be worn, and the richer the provenance the greater the glamour that rubs off on the wearer. When Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis's jewels were sold in 1996, they included a 40.42 carat marquise diamond ring, cut by Harry Winston from the 601 carat Lesotho III diamond. Now that's a very glamorous piece to own. And in 1987 an unknown collector bought the emerald and diamond Cartier ring given by Edward VIII to Wallis Simpson for their engagement. The massive central stone had belonged to a Great Mogul.

Not many fall into this big league of buyers. But there are plenty of investors, often surprisingly young, who might invest in a piece and then spend time trying to identify where the next trend will lead them, in order to build up a coherent portfolio of gems. …

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