Bloomberg

(Bloomberg) -- A blue diamond set a record price for a jewel in auction when it went under the hammer for $58 million in a Christie’s sale in Geneva.

The Oppenheimer Blue, at 14.62 carats, is the largest fancy vivid blue diamond to be auctioned and was estimated to be worth as much as $46 million. The stone was named after its previous owner, Sir Philip Oppenheimer, whose family controlled De Beers for 80 years before selling a stake in the diamond company to Anglo American Plc in 2012.

Blue diamonds are the rarest in the world. The previous record was set by Hong Kong billionaire Joseph Lau, who paid almost $50 million for a 12.03-carat, fancy blue diamond called “Blue Moon” at Sotheby’s last year.

The auction market for gems has been stronger than for art lately. Last week’s bellwether Impressionist, modern, postwar and contemporary art auctions at Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips in New York raised 50 percent less than last year. The sale of the Oppenheimer Blue follows a record-breaking $175 million jewelry auction by Sotheby’s in Geneva Tuesday.

Prices for rough diamonds -- what mined gems are called before they’re cut and polished -- slumped 18 percent last year, the most since the financial crisis in 2008. The stronger dollar and collapse in oil income for buyers in Russia and the Middle East have weighed on demand. The world’s biggest and rarest diamonds tend to be more resilient to a slump in prices.

--With assistance from James Tarmy and Thomas Biesheuvel To contact the reporter on this story: Corinne Gretler in Zurich at cgretler1@bloomberg.net. To contact the editors responsible for this story: Matthew Boyle at mboyle20@bloomberg.net, Thomas Mulier, Mark Schoifet

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