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Sotheby's expects rare blue diamond to fetch $48M at auction

The largest blue diamond to ever appear at auction, the De Beers Cullinan Blue, is at Sotheby's on Tuesday in New York City. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
1 of 3 | The largest blue diamond to ever appear at auction, the De Beers Cullinan Blue, is at Sotheby's on Tuesday in New York City. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 16 (UPI) -- A 15.1-carat blue diamond is expected to fetch at least $48 million when it goes to auction in April in Hong Kong, Sotheby's announced Wednesday.

Known as the De Beers Cullinan Blue, the gem is the largest diamond with a fancy vivid blue grade to head to auction, according to the auction house. The Gemological Institute of America awards the fancy vivid blue -- its highest color grading for blue diamonds -- to about 1% of diamonds submitted to it.

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The rare jewel is larger than the 14.6-carat Oppenheimer Blue diamond that sold for more than $57.54 million at a Christie's auction in 2016.

The $48 million price tag is the highest estimate ever placed on a blue diamond at auction.

"Blue diamonds of any kind are rare on the market, but this is the rarest of the rare; nothing of remotely similar caliber has appeared at auction in recent years," said Patti Wong, chairwoman of Sotheby's Asia.

"Hundreds of years in the making, this extraordinary blue diamond is surely one of nature's finest creations. Now brought to dazzling life by the hand of one of the world's most skillful cutters, it is the ultimate masterpiece -- as rare and desirable as the very greatest works of art."

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Sotheby's said the diamond was discovered at the Cullinan Mine in South Africa in 2021. The mine is one of the few sources of blue diamonds in the world.

The Cullinan Mine was once home to many other notable diamonds, including the Great Star of Africa and Lesser Star of Africa -- both of which are in the British crown jewels -- and the 507.5-carat Cullinan Heritage Diamond found in 2010.

The blue color in the De Beers Cullinan Blue is caused by trace amounts of the rare element boron within the diamond's lattice structure.

"Among the rarest of stones in what is arguably the most desirable of colors -- powerful and vivid, but at the same time calm and majestic -- it must surely rank among the greatest wonders of the natural world," said Wenhao You, chairman of jewelry and watches at Sotheby's Asia. "It is literally irresistible."

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