By Michelle Graff
London--The Hope Spinel, a rare and large gemstone not seen at auction for 98 years, sold for $1.5 million at the Bonhams Fine Jewellery sale in London Thursday, fetching well over its highest pre-sale estimate of $305,000.

The 50.13-carat Hope Spinel sold for $1.5 million at Bonhams Thursday, setting a per-carat record for a faceted spinel at auction at $30,000 per carat.Purchased by a private bidder via telephone, the stone also set a per-carat world record price for a faceted spinel at auction when it garnered $30,000 per carat. The previous record, set in 2013, was $16,000 per carat.

The octagonal-cut spinel is set in a 19th century sterling silver and gold brooch and is surrounded by diamonds. Bonhams said the Swiss gemological laboratory SSEF has confirmed the stone is from ancient mines due to its exceptional transparency, flawless cut, beautiful color and large size. It is “classed as an exceptional treasure of nature.” 

The last time it went up for sale was in 1917.

The Hope Spinel originally was part of a gem collection owned by London banker Henry Philip Hope and his older brother, both part of the same family of rich and powerful merchant bankers that once owned the famed blue Hope Diamond.

After being secretly gifted to a nephew, the Hope Spinel became part of a long inheritance feud within the family that ended with the dividing up of the collection.

The Hope Diamond eventually was sold to a dealer in 1901 and now resides in the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.

Christie’s sold the remainder of the Hope gem collection by 1917, with the Hope Spinel going to a dealer for $1,600 (about $121,500 in today) and later turning up in the collection of Lady Mount Stephen. The seller of it this time around is a direct descendant of hers.

Jean Ghika, director of Bonhams Jewellery for the U.K. and Europe, said, “We are delighted with the price it has made. It was an exceptional gemstone with a priceless provenance and these pieces just don’t come to the open market often and when they do, they are hotly contested.”

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