GEMS: Gold is not all that glitters – diamonds act as hedge for rich – by David Brough and Atul Prakash (Globe and Mail – July 26, 2016)

GENEVA and LONDON — Reuters – In a packed Christie’s auction room in Geneva, one could hear a pin drop as two anonymous bidders slugged it out in their quest to own the world’s most exquisite blue diamond.

The room in the Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues was filled with multimillionaire collectors and diamond dealers, listening intently as the bidders, each speaking by phone to a Christie’s representative, took turns adding a few hundred thousand dollars in a tense struggle dragging on for more than half an hour.

When the auctioneer’s hammer came down, spontaneous applause broke out as the winner, who retained anonymity, bought the 14.62-carat Oppenheimer Blue for a world record $57.5-million (U.S.) for any jewel sold at auction. The sale some weeks ago was the latest in a series of world record prices per carat paid at auction for extraordinarily magnificent and rare diamonds.

With new fortunes being created around the world faster than at any time in history, more of this expanding elite of wealthy investors are looking at different ways of protecting cash that now earns close to zero per cent interest in bank accounts, while asset market turbulence can wipe out millions in hours.

Some are eyeing rare diamonds as a best friend, or long-term haven at least. And it’s no longer just a top table of “super rich” billionaires who are gravitating to this arcane world.

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