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Giant 'Pink Legacy' Diamond Fetches Over $44 Million at Auction

Weighing in at a whopping 18.96 carats, the Pink Legacy diamond was estimated to fetch as much as $50 million at auction. (Image credit: Christie's)

Bright pink diamonds are rare. Big, bright pink diamonds are even rarer. And a diamond like the famed Pink Legacy — which is extraordinarily vivid for such a large diamond, weighing in at a whopping 18.96 carats — is so unusual that it has been called "as good as it gets" for a colored diamond, according to Rahul Kadakia, International Head of Jewellery at Christie's auction house.

If you happened to have enormous quantities of cash burning a hole in your pocket, the Pink Legacy could have been yours. The rare gem, which is set in a platinum ring surrounded by smaller diamonds, hit the auction block today (Nov. 14) at Christie's in Geneva. The diamond was expected to fetch as much as $50 million, and went to the winning bidder for more than $44 million.

Other pink diamonds typically contain hints of other colors, such as brown, orange, gray or purple. But the Pink Legacy is pink through and through, with a rich tone classified by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) as "fancy vivid." That qualification is awarded to only 1 in 100,000 diamonds, Christie's representatives explained in a statement.[Sinister Sparkle Gallery: 13 Mysterious & Cursed Gemstones]

"It is unusual for pink diamonds to occur with a strong depth of color and saturation in any size," GIA representatives told Christie's.

Fancy-vivid pink diamonds rarely weigh more than one-fifth of a carat, and only four of such diamonds identified as over 10 carats have been offered for auction in almost 250 years, according to Christie's.

Bidding was fast and furious for the rare pink diamond known as the Pink Legacy. (Image credit: Christie's)

What gives pink diamonds their unusual color? Unlike other colored diamonds, which gain their shades from light-absorbing chemical impurities in their carbon structures, pink diamonds are free of impurities. Some researchers suggest that pink diamonds may be created by intense physical disruptions to their molecular structure during formation, the BBC reported. A seismic shudder deep underground, for example, could shift a diamond's crystal structure, generating defects that could produce a rosy hue, according to the BBC.

While the Pink Legacy diamond is the largest known cut-and-colored diamond, raw diamonds found in nature can be much, much larger. Earlier this year, a mining company unearthed a 910-carat diamond in Lesotho, Africa; that gem is the fifth-largest diamond ever found.

The Pink Legacy is part of Christie's "Magnificent Jewels" auction, and it appeared alongside more than 300 other sparkling items, including sapphire and diamond rings; colored-diamond earrings and pendants; and necklaces dripping with diamonds, emeralds and pearls.

Bidding began at 24 million Swiss francs (US $23,815,680) shortly after 10:00 p.m. local time in Geneva, and within two minutes climbed to 42 million Swiss francs (US $41,677,440). The final bid — 44 million, five hundred thousand Swiss francs (US $44,158,240) — claimed the precious gem at 10:10 p.m.

Originally published on Live Science.

Mindy Weisberger
Mindy Weisberger

Mindy Weisberger is a Live Science senior writer covering a general beat that includes climate change, paleontology, weird animal behavior, and space. Mindy holds an M.F.A. in Film from Columbia University; prior to Live Science she produced, wrote and directed media for the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Her videos about dinosaurs, astrophysics, biodiversity and evolution appear in museums and science centers worldwide, earning awards such as the CINE Golden Eagle and the Communicator Award of Excellence. Her writing has also appeared in Scientific American, The Washington Post and How It Works Magazine.