A huge yellow diamond known as the "Sun-Drop Diamond" sold for 11.28 million Swiss francs or $12.36 million, a world record for a yellow diamond, at auction on Tuesday, Sotheby's said.
The diamond, the world's largest pear-shaped fancy vivid yellow, weighing 110.03 carats, was the top lot at Sotheby's semi-annual jewellery sale in Geneva on Tuesday night which netted a total of $70.17 million.
"I don't really see any crisis here at all. We sold nearly every one of the big diamonds within our expectations," David Bennett, chairman of Sotheby's jewellery department in Europe and the Middle East, told reporters after conducting the sale.
"It proves the resilience of the diamond market in a time of uncertainty," he said.
The second priciest lot was a cushion-shaped white diamond weighing 38.88 carats which sold for 6.34 million Swiss francs or $6.96 million, including the premium paid by the buyer, according to Sotheby's.
But several major jewels were stranded on the block, with just 81.8 percent of some 500 lots on offer finding new owners. Rival Christie's holds its sale in Geneva on Wednesday night.
Among unsold lots were a fancy intense blue pear-shaped diamond ring that Sotheby's had expected to fetch up to $10 million and a suite of imperial diamond jewels from the mid-19th century which the auction house said may have been from the jewel box of Catherine I, wife of Peter the Great of Russia.
"There are very often casualties in every sale. We got very very close tonight with the imperial suite, it is a totally unique and unprecedented suite of jewels. Unfortunately we didn't get the extra bid to have it sold," Bennett said.
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"But it remains the most sumptuous suite of jewels I have ever seen from that period," the British expert added.
Prices for vintage signature pieces soared. A 1930s vintage necklace by French jeweller Cartier, composed of five strands of graduated natural pearls set with diamond plaques, fetched $3.342 million, roughly three times its pre-sale estimate.
The yellow diamond was discovered in South Africa last year and cut and polished by New York-based Cora International which put it up for sale, Sotheby's said.
The stone had a pre-sale estimate of $11-15 million. The buyer is a private individual who wished to remain anonymous.
"It sold for a record for a yellow diamond ... It was exactly within our expectation for this spectacular stone," Bennett told reporters.
Gem experts and traders said that prices were strong for top-quality stones but that lesser ones were shunned.
"We are getting into prices per carat that are quite punchy. So people are hesitating. It has to be top quality to bring top price," Eric Valdieu, formerly of Christie's who is launching a new investment fund "Divine Jewels", told.
"Prices are still strong especially for diamonds and top-quality coloured stones like rubies, Kashmir sapphires and pearls -- they are the winners of the day," he said.
The large yellow diamond really only attracted one bidder, for whom it is probably an "alternative asset", Valdieu said.
Yellow diamonds have become more rare and are fetching higher prices, said Hoda Esphahani, president of SAFDICO USA Inc (South African Diamond Corporation).
SAFDICO is the manufacturing arm of London-based top jeweller Graff Diamonds, owned by Laurence Graff, which last week announced it plans to raise about $1 billion in a Hong Kong listing next year.
Graff did not attend the sale, as he is currently in China.
"I bought two yellows, one an unmounted cushion-shaped old stone and another a fancy vivid yellow set in a simple ring," Esphahani told.
"I think top vivid diamonds are still now underpriced. I think they will go much higher because they are rare," she said.
Johnny Kneller, the Antwerp-based CEO of SAFDICO, told: "The market is very hot.
Times elsewhere are very bad, the world economy is very bad.
But diamonds and coloured stones are very much in demand and prices are quite high."