Sotheby’s 110 Carat Diamond – Why Bigger Isn’t Always Better

Lot 195 in Sotheby’s Magnificent Jewels auction was to be a historic sale, featuring the largest round diamond ever to be sold at auction. The ‘Extremely Rare Diamond Ring’ was a massive 110.92 carats and earned a pre-sale estimate of $4.2 – $6.2 million. It was notable not only for its mammoth size, but because of its shape – the classic round shape.

Here’s a video of 110 carat diamond and a 5.69 blue diamond in the same collection:

Ultra large diamonds are rarely found in the classic round shape because rounds are the least “efficient” diamond shape to create. Cutting a round diamond from a piece of rough means discarding up to 60% of that rough.

Other shapes, such as princesses, pears, emeralds and ovals, are much more efficient to cut (you can retain more of the rough in the finished diamond). That’s why ultra large pieces of rough diamond are usually shaped into pears, emeralds, and the like — cutters want to keep as much of that precious material as possible!

In fact, in order to create this 110 carat diamond, the artisan probably started with a massive (and massively expensive) piece of rough such as the 404 carat rough diamond that was dug up in Angola in 2016.

Yet with all these exceptional qualities, the ring failed to sell when it was put on the block Tuesday morning.

One might think the stone was beyond the price limit of the auction buyers, but a much smaller stone from the same collection actually sold for much more. Lot 211, a vivid blue diamond ring of 5.69 carats sold for $15,130,800 in the same auction.

sothebys-lot-211-blue-diamond

So why weren’t billionaires around the world clamoring to buy yesterday’s offering? We break it down to 3 factors:

1. Clarity

Sotheby’s Extremely Rare Diamond Ring earned only a VS1 (Very Slightly Included 1) clarity grade. VS1 grade diamonds have a few tiny imperfections that may be visible upon close inspection with the naked eye. Visible imperfections can affect a diamond’s brilliance and may even make it look a bit scratched or dirty.

Obviously, a stone of this size has a much larger field in which imperfections can occur — and it also has much larger facets, making these imperfections a lot harder to hide. In general, the larger the gem, the more noticeable even tiny perfections become.

If this diamond had been rated as an IF (internally flawless) or a FL (flawless), it would have been nearly priceless. As it stands, the level of inclusions significantly reduced its value.

Buyer’s note: If you’re thinking about buying a diamond in the 1 carat range, a clarity grade of VS1 is definitely acceptable. In general, smaller gems hide imperfections better.

2. Color

The description in the catalogue stated that “the diamond is an L, Faint Brown Color.” This means it didn’t have enough color to make it a ‘fancy’ chocolate diamond, but had too much for a desirable colorless white diamond.

You can see a video of the stunner on this Instagram video:

A color grading of “D” for a white diamond is the most desirable denoting a completely colorless stone. The grading then breaks down as follows:

DIAMOND COLOR GRADES
Grade Classification Description
D Colorless Colorless; appears completely white under 10 times magnification and pairs well with platinum, palladium, and white gold.
E Colorless Colorless; can only be distinguished from D by a gemologist and pairs well with platinum, palladium, and white gold.
F Colorless Colorless; can only be distinguished from D and E by a gemologist and pairs well with platinum, palladium, and white gold
G Near Colorless Near Colorless; extremely subtle hints of yellow noticeable only in side-by-side comparison and pairs well with white or yellow gold.
H Near Colorless Near Colorless; subtle hints of yellow visible in side-by-side comparison and pairs well with white or yellow gold.
I Near Colorless Near Colorless; subtle hints of yellow noticeable with the unaided eye and pairs well with white or yellow gold.
J Near Colorless Near Colorless; subtle hints of yellow noticeable with the unaided eye and pairs well with white or yellow gold.
K Faint Yellow Faint Yellow; appears yellow without magnification and pairs well with yellow gold.
L Faint Yellow Faint Yellow; appears yellow without magnification and pairs well with yellow gold.
M-R Noticeable Color A yellow or brown tint is clear to the unaided eye. Their visible color makes these diamonds much more affordable. Set them in yellow gold for a warm, colorful look.
S-Z Very Noticeable Color While still considered a ‘white’ diamond, an S-graded diamond has visibly yellow or brown tones. You may find that the color in these diamonds is too much for your taste.

 

An L diamond is the lowest color grade that Ritani offers, being a relatively inexpensive option while still displaying an attractive color.

Buyers Note: Perhaps more than any of the other qualifications of diamond value, color grade is truly up to your own personal preference. Some prefer a truly colorless diamond, while others like the warmer tones of a faint yellow. Be sure to go into a jewelry store and compare the difference before making your decision on color grade.

3. Setting

It all comes down to practicality. The Sotheby’s diamond was set in a simple 6-prong solitaire platinum band – striking an unusual and almost humorous juxtaposition of ostentatiousness and austerity. Like anything else, a diamond can be made to look its best in a setting that highlights its unique attributes.

According to our jewelry experts, considering the faint brown hue of the diamond, it would have best been paired with yellow gold to make this discoloration less noticeable. And placing a diamond like this on a small limb like a finger was probably not the best choice. Making it the centerpiece of a necklace would have gone a long way in making it more attractive to the right buyer.

We do think that, with a perfectly crafted setting, Elizabeth Taylor wouldn’t have minded adding this gem to her collection.

The Right Stuff

Despite its shortcomings, the Sotheby’s diamond was blessed with enormous carat size and “Excellent Cut, Polish, and Symmetry.” Some experts believe that cut grade is actually the most important factor when choosing a diamond because it has the greatest impact on the sparkle of a diamond.

The moral of the story is that bigger is not always better. In fact, too large of a diamond may look awkward on your hand. For a carat size simulation, see Ritani’s handy tool. Remember that it really all comes down to your own personal preference.

When selecting a diamond for an engagement ring, what matters to some may be different than what matters to you. Learn more about the 4C’s of Diamonds or search our inventory for your perfect diamond.

FIND YOUR PERFECT DIAMOND NOW