When natural fancy color diamonds sell at auction, we do not always get very much historical background regarding the owners of these magnificent diamonds. But isn’t it fascinating to know these details? For instance, what type of people have collected color diamonds? How long have they been in a family for? Why did they end up at auction?
In the case of the Blue Mellon diamond recently sold at Sotheby’s New York, the Fancy Vivid Blue Pear Cut VVS2 diamond, mounted in platinum, weighed in at 9.75 carats, and sold for more than any other blue diamond at Sotheby’s at $32.6 million. In fact, the sale price exceeded the previous blue diamond record in 2008, that of the Wittelsbach Diamond, which sold for $24.3million and weighed more at 30 carats.
The Mellon Blue sold to an anonymous collector from Hong Kong who won the bid, beating out six other competitors along with the pre-estimate of $15million.
The diamond belonged to The Mellon family. When widow Rachel Lowe Lambert Lloyd Mellon also known as “Bunny” Mellon passed away in March of this year at the age of 103, the blue diamond along with many other personal items were sold by her estate over a five day period totaling $218 million. See “The Mellon Auction” below.
Married to one of America’s richest men Paul Mellon, philanthropist, horse breeder and heir to the Mellon Bank, the Mellon’s were substantial art collectors. Together they collected over 1,000 works of art including several works by artist Mark Rothko and donated many European paintings to the National Gallery of Art and established the Yale Center for British Art. The couple is well known for their 1993 Sea Hero win at the Kentucky Derby.
Rachel Mellon was an American philanthropist, horticulturalist, art collector and gardener. She also inherited a fortune in her own right as heir to the Listerine mouthwash fortune, which her grandfather invented. She was very private, only giving a few interviews in her 103 years of life but was well renowned in particular for her exceptional gardening talents.
Amongst many high profile gardens around the world, Mellon created a landscape design for the home of the late Hubert de Givenchy and assisted with a restoration of the potager du Roi in Versailles. Mellon was also invited to redesign the White House Rose Garden during the Kennedy reign. The President was so happy with the garden that after the Cuban Missile Crisis concluded, he wrote a personal letter to inform her that the garden:
‘has been our brightest spot in the somber surroundings of the last few days.’
After JFK died, Mellon design a second garden which she insisted be named for Jackie Kennedy.
Paul Mellon died in 1999 at the age 91 and was survived by his two children from a previous marriage and the couple’s one daughter Eliza who died in 2008 after complications from a car accident eight years prior to her death.
It is difficult to assess Mrs. Mellon’s accumulated assets but by all accounts between inheritances, invested trusts and fixed assets she was extremely wealthy.
Her homes in Paris, New York, Nantucket, Antigua, Cape Cod and Oyster Harbors were sold prior to her death with the exception of her Oak Springs estate in,Virgina; a 4,000acre property including a 1 mile airstrip for her Falcon 2000.
Unfortunately Mrs. Mellon was not exempt from deception and subsequently lost $5.75 million dollars to Kenneth Star; convicted Ponzi scheme operator.
Mrs. Mellon was awarded several honors including: The American Horticultural Society Landscape Design Award, Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, The Henry Shaw Award and the The Royal Horticultural Society’s The Veitch Memorial Medal.
She was also politically affiliated hobnobbing with the Kennedys and funding John Edwards’ 2008 Democratic primary run campaign.
Mellon died at home after a 15-year battle with stomach cancer On March 17, 2014 at the age of 103 years.
A dinner party at Sotheby’s provided a preview of furniture, jewelry and other objects from the estate of the philanthropist Rachel Lambert Mellon, known as Bunny, who died in March. The items are set for auction on Thursday. Credit Jennifer S. Altman for The New York Times
On 10 November 2014, items from Mrs. Paul Mellon’s collection of paintings, jewelry, furniture, and decorative objects were auctioned at Sotheby’s in New York for a total of $158.7 million, including Untitled (Yellow, Orange, Yellow, Light Orange) by Rothko, which sold for $36.5 million, and another Rothko that sold for $39.9 million. Proceeds from the sale will benefit the Gerard B. Lambert Foundation, a charitable entity established by Mellon in memory of her father.
The showstopper and what is making news around the globe is the spectacular Vivid Blue Diamond that broke world records.
Gary Schuler, Head of Sotheby’s Jewelry Department in New York, commented on the Blue Diamond: “From the moment I saw this diamond, I knew that it would be one of the most important stones that I will ever have the privilege of presenting at auction. It was incredible to see each of my colleagues experience the diamond for the first time, watching as the blue hue warmed and intensified in front of them with every minute in natural light. Mrs. Mellon’s diamond absolutely deserves the place in the record books that it achieved tonight.”
The bidding for the exquisite 9.75-carat pear-shaped Fancy Vivid blue diamond reportedly lasted nearly 15 minutes, with the hammer finally coming down on the winning bid of $29 million – or $32.6 million in total after fees.
The diamond’s new owner, based in Hong Kong, has renamed the stone “The Zoe Diamond”.