Hong Kong tycoon buys $48.5M 'Blue Moon' diamond at auction for daughter

Geneva: An exceptionally large blue diamond has been sold for 48.6 million Swiss francs (USD 48.5 million) a record price for any jewel at auction, Sotheby's said, culminating two Geneva auctions in which a convicted Hong Kong tycoon bought rare colored diamonds for his daughter.

The 12.03-carat 'Blue Moon' diamond, set in a ring, was said to be among the largest known fancy vivid blue diamonds and was the showpiece gem at the Sotheby's jewelry auction yesterday. A packed room broke into applause after the hammer came down at a price of 43.2 million Swiss francs, excluding fees within the pre-auction estimate range of about 34 to 54 million francs.

The Blue Moon so-called in reference to its rarity, playing off the expression "once in a blue moon" topped the previous record of USD 46.2 million set five years ago by the Graff Pink, Sotheby's said. The diamond also set a new record of more than USD 4 million per carat, capping the daylong high-end jewelry sale that reaped roughly USD 140 million.

On its Twitter account, Sotheby's said the jewel was purchased by a Hong Kong private collector and was promptly renamed 'The Blue Moon of Josephine' a similar name to one given to a pink diamond ring that sold for USD 28.5 million at Christie's in Geneva a day earlier: 'Sweet Josephine.'

The auction house didn't identify the buyer but in both cases it was Hong Kong billionaire Joseph Lau, his office said

"Yes, the two diamonds are bought by Joseph Lau," said a spokeswoman, who hung up without identifying herself. At a Sotheby's Geneva auction In 2009, Lau bought another blue diamond, paying a then-record USD 9.5 million for the 7.03 carat "Star of Josephine". The gem was reportedly named after his 7-year-old daughter, the youngest of his five children.

Lau is a property developer with a fortune estimated by Forbes at USD 9.8 billion. Last year he was convicted in a Macau court on corruption charges and sentenced to more than five years in prison. But Lau, who didn't attend the trial, has remained free by avoiding travel to the former Portuguese colony, which doesn't have an extradition treaty with nearby Hong Kong. Both cities are specially administered Chinese regions.

"Tonight we set a new world record, a new auction record for any diamond, any jewel, any gemstone, with the sale of the Blue Moon Diamond," said auctioneer David Bennett. He specified the price as USD 48,468,158. "For me, the blue moon was always the blue diamond of my career. I have never seen a more beautiful stone. The shape, the color, the purity it's a magical stone."

The polished blue gem was cut from a 29.6-carat diamond discovered last year in South Africa's Cullinan mine, which also yielded the 530-carat Star of Africa blue diamond that is part of the British crown jewels, and the Smithsonian Institution's "Blue Heart" discovered in 1908.

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