The fourth-largest faceted blue sapphire in the world — the stunning 392-carat “Blue Belle of Asia” — smashed the world record for any sapphire sold at auction when excited bidders at Christie’s Geneva pushed the price to $17.7 million on Tuesday.
"The private collector, seated in the room, is now the new owner of the most valuable sapphire in the world," exclaimed Rahul Kadakia, International Head of Christie's Jewelry Department, at the close of the bidding. He did not reveal the identity of the collector.
"We are extremely proud that the Blue Belle of Asia established a new world record for any sapphire sold at auction," he added in an official statement.
Boasting an historical provenance dating back 88 years, the cushion-cut, cornflower blue Ceylon sapphire fetched about twice its pre-sale estimate of $6.9 million to $9.9 million.
Christie’s reports that the Blue Belle of Asia was discovered in 1926 at Pelmadula, Ratnapura (The City of Gems) in Ceylon (now known as Sri Lanka). It was originally owned by famous gem and jewelry dealers O.L.M. Macan Markar & Co., based in Colombo, Sri Lanka. British automobile magnate Lord Nuffield purchased the gem in 1937 with the rumored intentions of presenting it Queen Elizabeth on her coronation day in May of that same year. The Queen never took possession of the stone and it subsequently "disappeared" into private hands. Its location remained a mystery for the next 35 years.
The Blue Belle of Asia, which has "excellent clarity" and is suspended on a diamond tassel pendant, was the top performing lot of Christie’s Magnificent Jewels sale.
At $44,974 per carat, the gem’s selling price was in line with the $40,962 per carat achieved by a 102-carat Ceylon sapphire sold for $4.2 million at Sotheby’s Hong Kong in April of 2014.
Overall, Christie’s Geneva sale generated $154 million from 346 lots. More than 600 buyers from 30 countries registered for the auction.