NEW YORK — A rare 9.54-carat fancy deep blue diamond ring once belonging to Shirley Temple — which Sotheby’s had touted as the star of its spring Magnificent Jewels sale — failed to find a buyer Tuesday.
The ring, flush in its original Art Deco setting, was originally expected to bring between $25 million and $35 million. While rare colored stones such as this have historically incited a craze among bidders, even without Hollywood provenance, the storied lot found no such luck. Sotheby’s heavily promoted the ring’s sale in the lead-up to Tuesday’s auction, exhibiting it at its bureaus in Hong Kong and Los Angeles and taking it on a major media tour.
A representative for the auction house released a statement to WWD, saying: “The Shirley Temple Blue Diamond is an exceptional stone in quality, rarity and provenance. It has been an honor to share its story with collectors, connoisseurs and Temple’s loyal fans over the past few months. Unfortunately, tonight wasn’t its night in the sales room, but we remain fully confident that it will find a buyer.”
In a pre-sale interview, Sotheby’s New York jewelry sales director Frank Everett said of the lot: “With the low estimate of $25 million, honestly between the rare color and quality of diamond, it’s well-priced. These pieces are just not coming along in the way they once did. The quality of the stone stands apart on its own and then you have the provenance.”
As recently as November 2015, Sotheby’s set a world record for gemstone sales with a 12.03-carat fancy vivid blue diamond (the same variation of stone as Temple’s) that sold for $48.5 million in Geneva.
Depending on the lot’s consigner’s preferences, the ring could be recalled, be considered for a private sale orchestrated by Sotheby’s, or be put up for auction in a future public sale.
Temple’s father had purchased the bauble to mark the star’s 12th birthday in 1940, the same year that she appeared in the film “The Blue Bird.” At the time, George Francis Temple paid just $7,210 (about $122,000 with current inflation) for the stone.
“She acquired it at the age of 12 and had it her whole life. This was a treasured piece of jewelry, she wore time and time again — we have pictures of her wearing it when was sworn in as ambassador, when she was presenting an Oscar,” Everett said.
The ring’s blue stone is “potentially internally flawless,” according to Sotheby’s analysis. It boasts VVS2 clarity, and was being auctioned in its original Art Deco-style setting. In 1972, Temple commissioned Tiffany & Co. to create a yellow-gold setting for the stone, which was also included in the lot.
“It was a bargain, even if you translate dollars at the time because colored diamonds in general were just not as understood or sought-after as they are today,” Everett said of the stone’s original 1940 price.
Tuesday’s Magnificent Jewels sale realized a total of $29.8 million — just slightly above a $26.8 million low cumulative estimate, excluding the value estimated for Temple’s diamond.