11 Most Expensive Jewelry Auction Results in the last 10 Years

The past decade has witnessed the sale of some truly phenomenal jewelry at auction, often for inconceivable prices. This article reveals the 11 most expensive pieces and their history.

Feb 14, 2021By Mia Forbes, BA in Classics
jewelry auction results
The De Grisogono Necklace, the Orange, the Pink Legacy, and The Oppenheimer Blue


‘The most personal of the decorative arts’, jewelry can represent a foregone age, tell the intimate story of its owner, and harness the beauty of nature’s most stunning products. While the artistic combination of precious metals and gemstones can generate a high market-price, the real value of a piece of jewelry lies in the innate quality of its stones. For this reason, the most expensive auction results have been realized by diamonds, pearls, and jewels that are exceptional either in quality, size, or color. Read on to discover more about the top 11 jewelry auction sales of the past ten years.


11. Jadeite Bead Jewelry Necklace

jadeite beads hong kong
Made of 27 jadeite beads, this necklace has a royal history


Price realized: 214,040,000 HKD (27,440,000 USD)

Auction: Sotheby’s, Hong Kong, 07 April 2014, Lot 1847

Known seller: Private collector

Known buyer: The Cartier Collection


About the Artwork

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In 2014, jewelry company Cartier spent over $27m at auction on a necklace that they had made in 1933 for the wedding of American heiress Barbara Hutton and Georgian Prince Alexis Mdivani. 


Therefore named the Hutton-Mdivani necklace, it is made up of 27 graduated jadeite beads, with a ruby and diamond clasp mounted in platinum and gold. Combining the style of Art Deco and the luxury of jadeite, a mineral revered in the east for possessing positive energy, the necklace is considered ‘one of the most legendary and important pieces of jadeite jewelry known to the world.’ 


When it first appeared at auction in 1988, it fetched an impressive $2m auction result, followed by a $4.2m result six years later, but nobody was prepared for such an incredible hammer-price when it appeared again at Sotheby’s after another 20 years. 


10. The Sunrise Ruby

the sunrise ruby
Named after a Persian poem, this huge ruby represents the finest of its kind


Price realized: 28,250,000 CHF (30,335,698 USD)

Estimate: CHF 11,700,000 – 17,500,000

Auction: Sotheby’s, Geneva, 12 May 2015, Lot 502


About the Artwork

The world’s most expensive ruby, the Sunrise Ruby was mined in Myanmar before being cut and mounted by Cartier in a huge ring flanked by two diamonds. 


Named after a poem of the same name by the great Rumi, the gemstone is prized for its vivid red hues and exceptional size, which together make it rare enough to be considered a ‘treasure of nature.’


The incredible auction result of over $30m, from when the ruby was won at Sotheby’s in 2015 by an anonymous bidder, represents a growing market for colored gemstones, which now rival colored diamonds in popularity and price.


9. De Grisogono Necklace

de grisogono necklace
Comprised of thousands of jewels, this stunning necklace sold for over $33m in 2017


Price realized: 33,500,000 CHF (33,700,000 USD)

Estimate: 30,000,000 – 40,000,000 CHF

Auction: Christie’s, Geneva, 14 November 2017, Lot 505

Known seller: De Grisogono


About the Artwork

Leading Christie’s Luxury Week auctions in 2017 was a stunning emerald and diamond necklace by the Swiss jewelry company, de Grisogono. 


The centerpiece of the necklace is a flawless rectangular diamond of 163.41 carats, the largest of its kind, which was cut from a 404-carat rough diamond discovered in Angola in 2016. The stone is strung from a necklace of almost 6000 emeralds and diamonds; although these are mounted in gold, they are so precisely cut that they appear to be continuous. 


The spectacular piece, which took 1700 hours and 14 craftsmen to create, was bought by an anonymous bidder for over $38m. Despite such success, De Grisogono was declared bankrupt in 2020 in a scandal surrounding its controversial owner.


8. The Orange

orange diamond
The appropriately named Orange is one of the largest orange diamonds ever cut


Price realized: 32,645,000 CHF (35,500,000 USD)

Estimate: 16,000,000 – 19,000,000 CHF

Auction: Christie’s, Geneva, 12 November 2013, Lot 286


About the Artwork

One of the very few orange diamonds to be graded ‘fancy vivid’ by the Gemological Institute of America, the Orange is the largest of its kind ever to be discovered. 


Cut into a pear shape, the incredible stone outweighs the Pumpkin Diamond, which previously held the record for the most expensive orange diamond sold at auction, by 9 carats. It also far outstrips it in value, as proven when it was bought in 2013 by an anonymous bidder at Christie’s for the impressive auction result of $35.5m. By contrast, the Pumpkin is believed to be worth around $3m!


7. Marie-Antoinette Pear Pearl

marie antoinette pear pearl
Owned by Marie-Antoinette, this enormous natural pearl is augmented by a diamond pendant


Price realized: 36,427,000 CHF (36,165,090 USD)

Estimate: 1,000,000 — 1,990,000  CHF

Auction: Sotheby’s, Geneva, 14 November 2018, Lot 100

Known seller: Italian noble house of Bourbon-Parma


About the Artwork

Formerly owned by none other than Marie-Antoinette, this monumental pearl was part of the French queen’s immense jewelry collection that she smuggled to her family in Austria during the French Revolution.


Contrary to what its huge size and charming shape might suggest, the pearl has been rigorously tested and proven to be a natural saltwater pearl. The centerpiece is complemented by a diamond pendant with a bow motif, which was originally suspended from a three-strand pearl necklace worn by Marie Antoinette’s that was also part of the Sotheby’s sale. Both lots greatly exceeded their estimates, with the necklace selling for almost $2.3m and the pearl itself realizing the staggering auction result of $36m.


6. The Princie Diamond

princie diamond
The sale of the Princie diamond in 2013 reflects the growing interest in colored diamonds, especially pink!


Price realized: USD 39,323,750

Auction: Christie’s, New York, 16 April 2013, Lot 295

Known seller: Swiss jewel dealer, David Gol

Known buyer: Qatari Royal Family


About the Artwork

Discovered three centuries ago in India, the Princie diamond first belonged to the royal family of Hyderabad, who eventually put it up for auction at Sotheby’s in 1960. It was bought by legendary jewelers Van Cleef & Arpels for £46,000, who nicknamed the stone ‘Princie’ in honor of a young Indian nobleman.


Weighing in at 34.65 carats, the cushion-cut pink diamond was rated ‘fancy intense’ in color by the GIA. As the third-largest pink diamond in the world, it was widely estimated to sell for more than $45m when it was auctioned by Christie’s in 2013. While failing to realize this sum, the incredible stone still sold for $39.3m, making it the then-most expensive jewel ever sold by the prestigious auction house. The final bid was placed by an anonymous phone bidder, but the Princie diamond is now known to be in the possession of the Qatari royal family.


5. The Graff Pink

graff pink
The Graff Pink became the most expensive jewel sold at auction in 2010 but was later overtaken by several other spectacular stones


Price realized: 45,442,500 CHF (46,158,674 USD)  

Estimate: 27,000,000 — 38,000,000  CHF

Auction: Sotheby’s, Geneva, 16 November 2010, Lot 550

Known buyer: London jeweler Laurence Graff


About the Artwork

Sold to a private collector in the 1950s by none other than Harry Winston, this sublimely beautiful pink diamond was classified in the rare IIa group by the GIA, and has been called “one of the most desirable diamonds I have ever seen” by the Chairman of Sotheby’s International Jewelry Division. 


The 24.78 carat, emerald-cut jewel is mounted on a platinum ring flanked by two diamonds, acquired the new name of ‘the Graff Pink’ after it was purchased at Sotheby’s in 2010 by the important British jeweler, Laurence Graff. 


The sale made the diamond the single most expensive jewel ever sold at auction, but in the following years, its impressive hammer-price of $46m would be surpassed by four more spectacular stones.


4. The Blue Moon Of Josephine

blue moon josephine
The Blue Moon of Josephine is surely the most extravagant gift ever received by a 7-year-old!


Price realized: 48,634,000 CHF (48,468,158 USD)

Estimate: 34,200,000 — 53,700,000  CHF

Auction: Sotheby’s, Geneva, 11 November 2015, Lot 513

Known buyer: Hong Kong billionaire businessman Joseph Lau


About the Artwork

An internally flawless diamond like the ‘Blue Moon’ will inevitably astound jewel-enthusiasts and collectors. Coupled with its ‘fancy vivid’ blue coloring, this stone was bound to attract monumental bids when it appeared at auction in 2015, only a year after the rough diamond was discovered in South Africa. 


At 12.03 carats, the cushion-cut diamond set in a simple ring set a record for the highest-ever price paid for a jewel per carat, when it was purchased for over $48m. The winner was Hong Kong businessman Joseph Lau, who renamed the stone ‘The Blue Moon of Josephine’ after his young daughter. 


It joined two other gems, a 16-carat pink diamond named the ‘Sweet Josephine,’ and another blue diamond called the ‘Star of Josephine,’ which Lau bought for the lucky girl. 


3. The Pink Legacy

pink legacy
The Pink Legacy sold for the ground-breaking sum of $50m the first time it appeared at auction


Price realized: 50,375,000 CHF (50,000,000 USD)

Estimate: 30,000,000 – 50,000,000 CHF

Auction: Christie’s, Geneva, 13 November 2018, Lot 311

Known buyer: Illustrious jewelry brand, Harry Winston Inc


About the Artwork

Mined in South Africa in 1918, the Pink Legacy diamond has a pedigree history: it was owned by the Oppenheimer family, who ran De Beers and are now worth a combined $152 billion. The jewel also has the strongest color saturation grade of ‘fancy vivid,’ which only one in a million diamonds possesses, and the extraordinary weight of 18.96 carats. 


Flanked by two diamonds and set in a platinum ring, the Pink Legacy came up for sale for the very first time at Christie’s in 2018. To nobody’s surprise, the incredible diamond sold for a monumental auction result: $50m. It was purchased by Harry Winston Inc, the jewelry company that has handled so many of the world’s most precious jewels and gems. 


2. The Oppenheimer Blue

oppenheimer blue diamond
The Oppenheimer Blue is the most expensive jewelry item ever sold at Christie’s auction house


Price realized: 56,837,000 CHF (57,600,000 USD)

Estimate: 38,000,000 – 45,000,000 CHF

Auction: Christie’s, Geneva, 18 May 2016, Lot 242


About the Artwork

Crushing the then-record held by the Blue Star of Josephine, the Oppenheimer Blue became the most expensive jewel ever sold at auction in 2016 at Christie’s, Geneva. Also named after the Oppenheimer family, whose scion Philip Oppenheimer owned the diamond during the late-20th century, the fancy vivid blue diamond of 14.62 carats is the largest of its kind ever sold at auction.


Flanked by two smaller diamonds and mounted in a platinum ring by Verdura jewelers, the stone caught the attention of two bidders in particular, who fought over the piece over the telephone for 25 minutes until the hammer eventually came down at a $57.6m auction result.


1. The Pink Star

pink star diamond
The most expensive jewel ever sold at auction is the spectacular Pink Star, which weighs 59.60 carats


Price realized: 553,037,500 HKD (71,200,000 USD)

Auction: Sotheby’s, Hong Kong, 04 April 2017, Lot 1801

Known buyer: Chow Tai Fook group


About the Artwork

An extraordinary stone with a complicated history, the Pink Star diamond holds the record for the most expensive jewel ever sold at auction. 


Weighing an unbelievable 59.60 carats and rated ‘fancy vivid’ by the GIA, the pink diamond was cut from a rough stone of 132.5 carats mined by De Beers in 1999. The cutting process alone, which saw the rough transformed into a gorgeous mixed oval, took 20 months and the stone was then mounted in a simple platinum ring.


It was exhibited in 2003 at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, and then in 2005 at London’s Natural History Museum, where it attracted crowds of 70,000 visitors a day. The diamond was soon acknowledged globally as one of the rarest, finest, and most beautiful jewels ever uncovered.


In 2013, the Pink Star was auctioned at Sotheby’s and purchased for a mammoth $83m by New York diamond cutter Isaac Wolf on behalf of a group of investors. However, Wolf and his investors defaulted on the payment and so the jewel returned to the auction house.  


Four years later, the jewel returned to auction in Hong Kong, where it was won (and paid for!) by Chow Tai Fook Enterprises, a huge Hong Kong-based conglomerate with an important jewelry division. Dr. Henry Cheng Kar-Shun, the chairman of the company and the caller who placed the final bid, renamed the stone ‘CTF Pink Star’ in honor of the firm’s founder.


More On Jewelry Auction Results 

diamond ring christies
A spectacular diamond ring of 28.86 carats, sold online in 2020 for USD 2,115,000, via Christie’s


Representing the very finest of pearls, gemstones, and diamonds, these eleven pieces of jewelry sold for immense prices, setting a whole new precedent for extravagant purchases. We are yet to see whether the 2020s can top the 2010s for incredible jewelry sales at auction, but the advent of online-only auctions in the age of Covid-19 has already produced some outstanding auction results


For more jewelry-related articles, explore the 4C’s of Diamond Buying and discover 6 of the Most Interesting Diamonds in the World.

Author Image

By Mia ForbesBA in ClassicsMia is a contributing writer from London, with a passion for literature and history. She holds a BA in Classics from the University of Cambridge. Both at work and at home, Mia is surrounded by books, and enjoys writing about great works of fiction and poetry. Her first translation is due to be published next year.