Posted on May 15, 2015 by

Is a Picasso Painting Worth More Than a 60 Carat Pink Diamond?

Art handlers hanging Picasso's "Women of Algiers" ("Les Femmes d'Alger (Version 'O')" painting

Unless you’ve been living under a rock lately, you likely heard by now that a 1955 painting by Pablo Picasso fetched a staggering – and record-setting – $179.4 million including fees at Christie’s “Looking Forward to the Past” art auction on Monday night. Picasso’s “Les Femmes d’Alger (Version ‘O’)” (Women of Algiers) painting had a presale estimate of $140 million, yet far exceeded such expectations by the time the gavel finally hit. Another masterpiece, Alberto Giacometti’s five-foot-tall sculpture, “L’homme au doigt” (Pointing Man) also broke a record for highest auction price ever paid for a sculpture, at an astonishing $141.3 million including fees. The bronze sculpture had a presale estimate of $130 million. Monday’s auction marked the first time that two artworks each estimated at more than $120 million went up for sale in the same auction.


Picasso's "Les Femmes d'Alger (Version 'O')" ("Women of Algiers")

Picasso’s “Les Femmes d’Alger (Version ‘O’)” fetched a shocking $179.4 million including fees on Monday, May 11, 2015, at Christie’s.


While the eye-opening – and mind-numbing – figures from Christie’s art auction are undoubtedly deserving of making the headlines front and center, as a diamond house, we’re absolutely rendered aghast at the prices that these invaluable works of art have raked in. The million-dollar (no pun intended!) question that one must inevitably ask is: why are these timeless artworks fetching so much more money than a loose diamond or diamond ring, particularly an inconceivably large or remarkably rare fancy colored diamond, could ever hope to achieve in an auction sale?


The diamond sold at auction that comes closest, price-wise, to the two pieces of art that sold at Christie’s on Monday is the profoundly rare 59.60 carat flawless Fancy Vivid Pink diamond. The mixed oval brilliant cut diamond, named the “Pink Star,” is the largest known Fancy Vivid Pink diamond that exists. While it achieved a new world record when it went up for auction at Sotheby’s Geneva auction in November 2013, selling to diamond cutter Isaac Wolf for $83.2 million, that sum clearly pales in comparison to the nearly $200 million that Picasso’s “Les Femmes d’Alger” sold for, making the 59.60 carat Fancy Vivid Pink diamond look like a bargain.


59.60 carat Fancy Vivid Pink diamond Pink Star

The most expensive colored diamond sold at auction is the 59.60 carat Fancy Vivid Pink diamond, known as the Pink Star.

In the end, it was reported that Mr. Wolf actually defaulted. He was unable to pay for the hefty Fancy Vivid Pink diamond, forcing Sotheby’s to buy it back for $60 million as the auction house had guaranteed that price to the Pink Star’s original seller. Why, then, is there such a high market value for art but not diamonds? Monday’s Christie’s art auction raises a salient question: what’s the reason for the huge discrepancy in selling prices between the two types of collector’s (and investor’s) items? After all, it’s not every day that a Type IIA – a rare occurrence for any pink diamond – flawless Fancy Vivid Pink diamond  (essentially the most coveted kind of pink diamond) weighing nearly 60 carats goes up for auction or can even be tracked down. With the supply of pink diamonds ever dwindling, especially with the close of the Australian-based Argyle diamond mine approaching, these highly touted commodities, too, are scarce and in very high demand. In spite of that, the diamond and fine jewelry world has yet to see a price tag mirroring those attached to works by the likes of Picasso and Giacometti materialize for any kind of diamond or fine jewelry item made available at auction. This all begs the question: is a Picasso painting worth more than a 60 carat pink diamond?


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