The Sakura Diamond is set to sparkle
Christie’s welcomes the coming of spring with the sale of this illustrious purple-pink gem
Japan’s sakura cherry-blossom season peaked this year in the city of Kyoto on 26 March, according to Osaka University. That makes it the earliest flowering in 1,200 years - the previous record of a day later had been set in 1409. But for auction houses in Asia rocked by the pandemic, the lucrative spring-sales season can’t come soon enough.
Christie’s in Hong Kong is trying to capture a little of the flower power in auctioning off the “Sakura Diamond” on 23 May. With its “perfect display of strong saturation and remarkable pink hue with a secondary colour of purple, [the Sakura Diamond resembles] the fascinating colour of cherry blossoms – appropriately coinciding with spring”, says the auction house.
The rich celebrate
The gem is a “fancy vivid purple-pink internally flawless” diamond, weighing 15.81 carats, and the largest such “purple-pink” stone to come to auction since the “Spirit of the Rose” last November. That one, a 14.8-carat purple-pink diamond, sold for CHF24.4m (£20.1m) with Sotheby’s in Geneva. This time, Christie’s in Hong Kong is hoping to fetch between HK$195m-HK$300m (£18.2m-£28m) for the Sakura Diamond. And well it might. The auction record for any gemstone was set by the “Pink Star” in 2017, when Sotheby’s sold the 59.6-carat “vivid pink” gem for HK$553m (£57m).
These sales might lead you to think coloured diamonds are common. But they are, in fact, among the rarest of gemstones. Pink diamonds are rarer still, falling under the rare Type IIa category of diamonds, which makes up less than 2% of all gem diamonds, notes Christie’s. And only 4% of those possess a colour deep enough to qualify as “fancy vivid”, according to the grading body, the Gemological Institute Of America (GIA).
But while exceptional, even coloured diamonds have not been immune to disruptions caused by Covid-19, with the market “somewhat stymied by the pandemic”, says Andrew Shirley in the recently released Wealth Report 2021 from Knight Frank. Its sub-index for coloured diamonds fell by 1% last year, having risen by 39% over the past decade. That was mainly due to logistical delays in sending and receiving the diamonds, adds Miri Chen of the Fancy Color Research Foundation, the compiler of the sub-index. This year should hopefully be better.
“It seems that HNWIs (high net worth individuals) can’t wait to compensate themselves for 2020, celebrate and buy the jewellery that they could not purchase during Covid-19,” says Chen. The closure of Rio Tinto’s Argyle mine in Western Australia last November is another reason the market may yet regain its sparkle. It had been, as Kate Youde put it in the Financial Times, “the only consistent source of pink diamonds… responsible for 90% of the world’s supply”.
This article was originally published in MoneyWeek