Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend ... and Bigger Is Better

It's been more than half a century since Marilyn Monroe crooned "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend." And here in the next century, the charms of this precious gem show no signs of abating.

On Wednesday evening, the largest brilliant white cut diamond ever to be sold at auction went under the gavel at Sotheby's in Geneva, Switzerland.

The lucky winner was Guess clothing founder Georges Marciano, who purchased the rock for nearly $16.2 million, about $200,000 more than its maximum estimate by Sotheby's.

The 84.37-carat white diamond is the size of a quail's egg and is rated as a "class D brilliant," the highest possible rating, according to Sotheby's.

It took a painstaking two years for the gem to be cut.

But it must have been worth it because, in matters of polish, symmetry, cut, color and clarity, this stone has few equals. In the catalog, Sotheby's described it as "pure perfection."

David Bennett, Sotheby's chairman of jewelry for Europe and the Middle East, told The Associated Press, "In my 32-year career, this stone ranks among the most beautiful diamonds I have ever seen."

A Record-Breaker?

The winning bid made this gem the second most-expensive stone or jewel ever sold at auction, as it stopped just short of beating the record set by a 101.1-carat diamond sold in 1995. That diamond, however, was not a top-rated class D brilliant.

Diamond analyst Christopher Hourmouzios told ABC News that "what makes this interesting is the fact that this is a white diamond. Usually it is the colored diamonds that command the best price."

He cited a Hancock Red, a 0.95-carat red diamond, which was sold at Christie's in New York for $880,000 in April 1987.

Of the Hancock Red he said that a single carat of that stone was valued at "over $900,000," compared to the price per carat for this white diamond, which stands at a rather paltry $143,000 to $190,000.

Despite that, interest in Wednesday's auction remained high, with the diamond already having been showcased during previews in New York, Los Angeles, London, Paris, Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and elsewhere. Bennett told the AP that the total sales generated by the auction have made 2007 Sotheby's most profitable year for jewelry since 1995.

Sometimes Controversial, Sometimes Mysterious

Diamonds also made headlines last year with the release of the film "Blood Diamond," starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

The film took a harsh look at the ethics and economics of the diamond trade, looking in particular at the sourcing of diamonds from war-torn regions. Income from the sale of such gems is often used to procure weapons.

When ABC News interviewed a spokesman from Sotheby's in Geneva before the auction, he insisted that "this diamond is from a conflict-free zone."

He would not discuss where the diamond was sourced from, saying only that "the seller of this diamond does not want his identity revealed for security reasons, in case he is unable to sell it."

The fears of the stone's owner seem misplaced, given the tremendous buzz generated by news of the auction.

After the sale of the stone, the seller of the diamond was belatedly identified as Ron Cohen, the owner of the Los Angeles-based Clean Diamonds.

Cohen told The Associated Press that he bought the diamond from Angola's national company in 2005, adding, "I only hope I will one day come across another stone like that one."

But now that the diamond has been sold, there is another, smaller problem to resolve.

How and where to wear it?

"It's very big, isn't it?" Hourmouzios said. "It's almost unwearable."

"Unless," he said, "you are Elizabeth Taylor. Or, failing that, the wife of a Russian oligarch."

Marciano, its new owner, has named the diamond Chloe after his daughter. There's no word yet on how she intends to wear it.

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