China's Diamond Market Returns to the Spotlight with Record-Breaking 'Pink Star' Sale to Chow Tai Fook

    Sotheby's sold the rare 'Pink Star' diamond for US$71.2 million to a jeweler counting on making a comeback with China's emerging middle class.
    The rare 'Pink Star' diamond was sold at a Sotheby's auction on April 4 via a phone bid to Chow Tai Fook chairman Henry Cheng Kar-Shun. (Courtesy Photo)
    Jessica RappAuthor
      Published   in Hard Luxury

    Hong Kong jeweler Chow Tai Fook now lays claim to a rare diamond that's getting global attention after its US$71.2 million sale broke records this week at a Sotheby's Magnificent Jewels and Jadeite auction. The 59.6 carat 'Pink Star' diamond is now the most expensive sale at auction for a diamond or jewel in the world, more than doubling the bid for the 'Unique Pink' diamond at a Sotheby's auction in Geneva last year.

    The auction was a major achievement for the auction house in Hong Kong as the diamond was also the “most valuable item ever sold in Asia,” Sotheby's CEO Tad Smith said in a press statement. Its success as Art Basel winds down suggests contemporary art is not the only market making major strides in China right now—jewelry is seeing a potential growing market as well.

    Despite a lag in the number of Chinese mainland tourists to Hong Kong and Xi Jinping's anti-graft campaign, there is hope among industry experts that Chinese millennials will give the struggling diamond industry the boost it needs. A December 2016 Bain and Company report said this generation brought jewelry makers “a compelling opportunity,” and Chow Tai Fook has been quick in recent years to take advantage of it. The company bought Hearts on Fire Co. in 2014 and has opened a new accessible luxury brand called Monologue in the mainland to give its younger shoppers a greater selection of pieces they'll like at lower price points. Its move was also an attempt to offset almost two years of dropping sales and store closures.

    An emerging jewelry market in China goes beyond diamonds as well. Late last year, Cartier showed optimism about growing demand when it brought its largest high jewelry exhibition yet to Shanghai and opened it up to the public for the first time. The Magicien collection debut presented both contemporary and historical pieces, some making their world debut, attracting mega-celebrities like Fan Bingbing.

    Chow Tai Fook itself may have faced a challenging 2016 in Greater China, but spirits this year are no doubt now much higher. The 'Pink Star' buy was to celebrate Chow Tai Fook's 88th anniversary, and the company's chairman Henry Cheng Kar-Shun renamed the 'Pink Star' the 'CTF' in honor of the late company founder Cheng Yu-Tung.

    Discover more
    Daily BriefAnalysis, news, and insights delivered to your inbox.