These five fancy vivid yellow diamonds, set into a brooch and pair of ear clips, were once owned by the Cullinan family.
London--A bidding war for five yellow diamonds with a special provenance led them to greatly exceed their pre-sale estimates at the Bonhams London Fine Jewelry sale Thursday.

A fancy colored diamond and white diamond brooch held three of the five yellow diamonds that once belonged to the Cullinan family. The three step-cut fancy vivid yellow diamonds weighing 5.29, 3.11 and 2.37 carats sold for about $608,100 (based on current exchange rates) to an online buyer, exceeding their pre-sale estimate of about $268,600 to $402,900.

The other two fancy vivid yellows, brilliant cuts weighing 2.08 and 1.93 carats, were set in a pair of ear clips and accented with white diamonds. Originally expected to go for between $67,200 and $107,500, they sold for about $167,900.  

“The diamonds were acquired in 1940 during a train journey when the present owner’s father-in-law, R.V. Cullinan, son of the famous South African diamond magnate Sir Thomas Cullinan, asked his friend General Pierre De Villiers, a director of De Beers, to buy him some diamonds on his next visit to Kimberley,” said Jean Ghika, Bonhams Director of Jewellery for the United Kingdom and Europe.

“On the train back from the De Beers mine at Kimberley, Sir Ernest Oppenheimer asked General De Villiers, ‘What have you got this time?’ The General retrieved a packet from his pocket and proudly showed Sir Ernest, who replied, ‘I can do better than that,’ and showed the general a set of yellow diamonds. A deal was struck. The diamonds were then purchased by the general, who kept half, and the other half were given to R.V. Cullinan.”

This was the first time the colored diamonds had appeared at auction.

Other top lots at the sale included a single-strand natural gray pearl necklace, circa 1915, which sold for more than five time its pre-sale estimate when it garnered about $495,300.

Bonhams also noted that signed jewelry sales remain strong among collectors.

A Harry Winston ring from 1968 featuring a 7.73-carat, F color, VVS1 marquise-cut diamond went for $318,000 against its estimate of $241,800 to $335,800. Bonhams said part of the proceeds of the sale of this lot would be donated to the Women’s Cancer Center at the European Institute of Oncology in Milan, Italy.

Meanwhile, a signed Cartier pair of earrings featuring two fancy intense purplish pink cushion-shaped diamonds, each weighing 1.01 carats, with cultured pearls and brilliant-cut diamonds sold for $209,900, against a pre-sale estimate of $134,300 to $161,200.

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