84-carat flawless diamond sells for $16 million

84-carat flawless diamond sells for $16 million
A Sotheby's employee holds the largest brilliant-cut D-color flawless diamond during a preview at Sotheby's in Geneva, Switzerland.
GENEVA (AP) - An 84.37-carat white diamond touted by Sotheby's for its size and beauty sold at auction Wednesday to Guess clothing company founder Georges Marciano for just under $16.2 million.

The jewel - the largest top-quality, brilliant-cut white diamond ever to appear at auction - had been valued by Sotheby's at between $13.3 million and $17.8 million.

Marciano's winning bid, made by telephone, came to $16,189,769 including the buyer's premium. It was just short of the all-time auction record for a stone or piece of jewelry, a record held by the same Sotheby's branch in Geneva for a 100.1-carat diamond that fetched $16.5 million in 1995.

"We had interest from all over the world," said David Bennett, the auction house's chairman of jewelry for Europe and the Middle East. "This sale said a lot about the jewelry market internationally, especially the diamond market. It says great things about jewels."

The diamond has received the highest possible grading, Sotheby's said. It is D-color, or finest white, has flawless clarity, and its cut, polish and symmetry have all been graded excellent, it said.

Ron Cohen, the owner of the Los Angeles-based Clean Diamonds, was the seller of the gem. Cohen said he purchased it from Angola's national diamond company two years ago, and knew immediately he had found something special.

"The size and especially the quality of the rough material was extraordinary," he told The Associated Press by telephone. "I only hope I will one day come across another stone like that one."

The New York-based company is hoping the "Magnificent Jewels" sale at Geneva's historic Beau Rivage hotel will help it bounce back from the disheartening results of its Impressionist and Modern Art auction, which sent its stock tumbling.

The sale last week fetched $269.7 million, well short of estimates, and led some analysts to speculate whether the flight from risk currently gripping financial markets may be spilling over into the art world.

The company announced that it lost $14.6 million by purchasing paintings that failed to sell.

The white diamond already has been showcased in Hong Kong, Paris, New York, Rome, Los Angeles, London, Dubai and Bahrain. The auction Wednesday also featured other diamonds, colored stones and gems from the world's leading jewelers.