In the galaxy of gemstones, diamonds constitute a solar system all their own.
They have been mined for millennia, representing beauty and prestige for ancient Indian dynasties, European royal families, and modern-day collectors from Antwerp to Auckland.
The prettiest carbon allotropes of them all, diamonds also present a strong argument against ageism: at 3 billion years old, the average diamond might just be the oldest thing you wear.
Elderly status is certainly not slowing them down. Throughout fiscal fluctuations and large-scale demographic shifts, the market for diamonds continues to grow. Following the global economic crisis in 2008, diamond demand rebounded in spades, pushing prices to record levels in 2011. Boston-based global consulting firm Bain & Company forecasts that the international demand for natural diamonds will increase at an average annual rate of 5.9 percent through 2020.
Currently, the United States is the largest consumer of polished diamonds, thanks in no small part to gemstone juggernaut New York City. A whopping 50 percent of diamond sales worldwide take place in New York, where annual diamond sales can approach $34 billion.
But new markets like the United Arab Emirates, India and China are rapidly emerging. Bain & Company predicts that India and China will overtake the United States as the top consumers of diamonds by 2020, with a 50 percent estimated increase in incremental global demand.
Historically, most of the world’s premier diamonds – and the majority of those on our list – were discovered in mines in South Africa and India. Destinations like Canada, Brazil and Australia have recently uncovered incredible natural resources as well, and are pursuing elevated standards of authenticity and mining conditions.
In late 2012, Russia announced it had discovered an immense diamond source beneath a 62-mile-wide asteroid crater in Siberia. The 35 million-year-old impact site, named Popigai Astroblem, is estimated to have approximately ten times as much hard diamond material than what exists in current global reserves.
As new resources and markets emerge, we took a closer look at the most expensive diamonds ever sold. From the pink and colorless sparklers upending auction records in Hong Kong and Geneva, to the deep blue majesty of the historic Hope Diamond, the world’s premier stones vary in size, color and origin.
What they have in common is timeless beauty and unparalleled international value. How many other 3-billion-year-old carbon allotropes can say that?