Sotheby's Dubai unveils world's largest flawless diamond

The 303.10-carat Golden Canary diamond is going on tour ahead of its sale in New York

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Sotheby's Dubai has unveiled the Golden Canary yellow diamond, one of the largest cut diamonds to exist.

With a rich golden tone, the fancy yellow stone weighs 303.10 carats, making it the largest flawless diamond in the world, according to the Gemmological Institute of America.

As a showing of the importance of the Middle Eastern market in such gems, the unique stone is making its debut in Dubai ahead of its world tour, when it will travel to Taipei, Hong Kong and Geneva before arriving in New York for its sale on December 7 as part of the Sotheby's New York Magnificent Jewels sale.

Valued at about $15 million by Sotheby's, when it goes under the hammer it will be without a reserve price — meaning it will sell for whatever the highest price is on the day.

The same was done for the Enigma, the 555-carat fancy black diamond Sotheby's sold in February this year. "Regardless of its intrinsic value, it will be sold to whatever the highest bid is on the day. Bidding starts at a princely $1, and we will see what the final result will be," Sophie Stevens, director specialist of jewellery at Sotheby's Dubai, tells The National.

The decision to offer the Golden Canary without a reserve price is very deliberate. "When people see no reserve, it actually creates fiercely competitive bidding, as people get excited by it, so it actually works in the stone's favour. So we have set an estimate that we think is fair for a stone for such good quality, but with no reserve, we expect to see a lot of activity drawn in by exactly that."

On display in Dubai, the Golden Canary is the largest flawless diamond in the world. Photo: Sotheby's

It is now on display at the Sotheby's Dubai gallery in DIFC. "It will be displayed unmounted in Dubai, which is nice, so you can really appreciate the beautiful colour it is," says Stevens.

The stone is pear-cut, but it has had various forms since its discovery. "The rough was discovered in the early 1980s in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo, by a little girl playing in her uncle's backyard."

Ironically, it was discovered near a diamond mining site on land that had been disregarded as not having any deposits. "Lo and behold, this huge hunk of golden rock turned out to be an 890-carat piece of diamond rough," says Stevens.

The significance of the stone quickly became clear and by 1984, it was on display in the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in New York, as the largest rough diamond ever recorded.

With its unusual golden yellow colour, the rough stone was both a record-breaking size and internally flawless. Cutting the stone, however, was a task so formidable it took almost five years to complete. The result was 15 separate stones, the largest of which weighed 407.5 carats and was named the Incomparable Diamond.

"As with all diamonds, when they start out as a piece of rough, the cutters have this slightly pressured job of thinking: how do we cut it to retain as much weight as possible but also keep the colour?" Stevens explains. With a shield cut, "it looked quite close to the rough form, and the Incomparable Diamond was displayed in various exhibitions. If we think of historically the most important stones today like the Tiffany Yellow, and the Eureka, the Incomparable was displayed alongside them in the Natural History museums in New York and Paris."

The owner made the bold decision to recut it, to enhance the colour and vibrancy.

"Since it was exhibited in the late 1980s in its first cut form, diamond-cutting technology has moved on so much," Stevens explains. "It has been recut recently to become the Golden Canary, this 303-carat gemstone. The outline is now more elegant, it has increased the brightness and the deepness of the colour, and emphasised the characteristics.

"It is still obviously internally flawless, but now we have this brighter, really golden colour. The outline is so much more beautiful, and the colour is deeper. And these days, we are very lucky that we don’t just have to rely on human expertise, we have this fantastic computer technology that can really look into the stone and tell us the best way to cut it to get those brilliant qualities emerging."

Although officially certified by the GIA as being a "fancy deep brownish yellow" diamond, the description is, however, a little misleading. In effect, it is called the Golden Canary as this more accurately describes the diamond's unique colour. "'Brownish' is a little unfair because the colour is much more elegant than that."

The Golden Canary joins the list of historically important stones that have been exhibited in Dubai. "We debuted the Enigma in Dubai, and we have had on display the Cullinan De Beers Blue diamond (that later sold for $55.7m), and the Williamson Pink Star, that sold last week for $57.7m, and is now the second most expensive jewel. Also, the Earth Star, which was this golden-orange colour, and was again being offered without reserve. It was revealed here in Dubai and acquired by a buyer in the region.

"With the world at the moment looking a little unsteady in several areas, I think people traditionally look towards tangible assets, so pieces like this are certainly attractive because of that. People always love diamonds."

Eight diamonds making up The De Beers Exceptional Blue Collection are held by a Sotheby's representative during an auction preview at Sotheby's auction house in New York, on October 12, 2022. EPA

In addition to the diamond, which will be on display in Dubai for three days, Sotheby's is also staging a private selling exhibition of hand-embellished handbags, contemporary jewellery by the Lebanese designer Gaelle Khoury, and photography from the Middle East, from Monday to November 4.

While it is only here for a short time, Sotheby's is expecting large numbers of visitors to view the diamond during its stay in Dubai, at both the Sotheby's gallery and at the Dubai Diamond Exchange, where it will be on Wednesday afternoon.

"It's lovely seeing the response from the market here, because the people who come to see it are very excited by it. We have so many jewellery enthusiasts in Dubai and the UAE, and travelling from the rest of the region to come and see these pieces."

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Updated: October 17, 2022, 10:34 AM
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