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What went under the hammer this week

A round-up of the biggest sales at auctions worldwide

The Spectacle, a flawless 100.94-carat colourless diamond from Russia, sold for $14.1 million at an auction in Geneva on Wednesday. (Bloomberg/Alrosa/Chrtisties)

The Spectacle: $14.1 million

A flawless 100.94-carat colourless diamond that’s considered to be the biggest polished gem from Russia sold for $14.1 million at Christie’s in Geneva on Wednesday. The Spectacle, an internally flawless diamond, is the largest stone ever to have been cut in Russia. The rough stone was unearthed in the remote northeastern Yakutia region in 2016, and the preparation and cutting process took a year and eight months. The sale comes as the diamond industry roars back to life after cutting centres in India and Antwerp rushed to replenish supplies they’d been unable to buy during the worst of the coronavirus pandemic. Gems of this size, however, are normally resilient to price swings in the wider market given their rarity and the fact that few people in the world buy them. The Spectacle is the third D-color, 100-carat-plus diamond that Christie’s has sold in the past 10 years, reports Bloomberg. The 101.73-carat Winston Legacy fetched $26.7 million in Geneva in 2013, and the 163.41-carat Creation I was sold for $33.7 million in 2017.

Basquiat’s In This Case: $93.1 million

Jean-Michel Basquiat's 1983 painting 'In This Case'.
Jean-Michel Basquiat's 1983 painting 'In This Case'. (AFP)

A painting of a skull by Jean-Michel Basquiat sold for $93.1 million at Christie’s in New York on Tuesday night, becoming the artist’s second-most expensive work to sell at auction. The 1983 painting, In This Case, was estimated to sell for $50 million, and bidding at the virtual auction opened at $40 million. Within six minutes, the painting by the American artist, who died at the age of 28 in 1988, had been sold for $93.1 million. The painting was last purchased publicly in 2002, when it sold at Sotheby’s for just under $1 million. It was sold again, privately, in 2007. The new buyer is not immediately known, but Basquiat has recently become popular among a small group of billionaires and many of his works are setting records at auctions. The record price for a Basquiat at auction was set in 2017. Yusaku Maezawa, founder of Japan’s largest e-fashion business Zozotown, bought an untitled painting, also of a skull, from 1982 for $110.5 million at Sotheby’s in New York.

Michael Jordan rookie sneakers: $152,500

Michael Jordan's famous Air Jordans from his rookie season.
Michael Jordan's famous Air Jordans from his rookie season. (AFP)

A pair of basketball legend Michael Jordan's famous Air Jordans from his rookie season sold at auction for $152,500 on Wednesday, the star item in Sotheby's first international dedicated sneaker sale. Seen as a niche interest 10 years ago, sneakers are now one of the fastest-growing markets at auctions, attracting attention from the general public as well as leading collectors. The "Gamers Only" online auction featured 13 pairs of match-worn basketball shoes from some of the NBA's greatest athletes, including Scottie Pippen and Shaquille O'Neal. Jordan, now 58, went on to become a six-time NBA champion and is widely considered the greatest basketball player of all time.

Napoleonic jewels: $3 million

A nine pieces parure of sapphires and diamonds, from a collection owned by Napoleon's adopted daughter Stephanie de Beauharnais.
A nine pieces parure of sapphires and diamonds, from a collection owned by Napoleon's adopted daughter Stephanie de Beauharnais. (REUTERS)

A jewellery set worn by French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte’s adopted daughter sold for $1.65 million in Geneva on Thursday, far higher than the pre-auction estimate. It was part of a collection of nine pieces of jewellery, including a tiara, a necklace, a pair of earrings, two pendants, two brooches, a ring and a bracelet. To mark the 200th anniversary of Napoleon’s death, Christie’s auction house sold the nine imperial jewels adorned with sapphires and diamonds, which were from the collection of his adopted daughter Stephanie de Beauharnais. The jewels had remained in the same family since they were given to Beauharnais for her wedding in Paris in 1806. Besides their historical value, the jewels were also prized for their natural blue, as sapphires usually undergo heat treatment to accentuate the colour. About 38 sapphires from Sri Lanka were used to create the set. The collection was expected to fetch $475,000 in total, but the tiara alone went for $462,000. It contains octagonal step-cut and oval-shaped sapphires, rose and old-cut diamonds, and gold.

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