Not literally, you understand, that would be silly (although it’s a little known fact that diamonds do burn…).

No, this is about selling a diamond at auction, but perhaps not giving it the best chance of maximising its value.

Ritchies Auctioneers in Toronto, Canada have a fine jewellery sale coming up on Sunday 13th November, and they’re lucky enough to have been entrusted with a diamond weighing 50.24 carats – the sort of stone which would normally be sold at auction by one of the world-famous auction houses in Geneva, New York, or increasingly, in Hong Kong.

Now a diamond like this (in fact, any diamond) needs a bit of romancing. It’s worth commissioning some fabulous photography, and perhaps asking a copywriter to put together a compelling story about the diamond, about what makes it so special and so alluring.

But what do we have here? Well, we have a photo (right), but it’s not exactly the world-class imagery that a 50ct diamond deserves — we get no idea of scale: this diamond could weigh 0.05ct or 0.50ct.

This looks like a (low quality) technical image shot on home equipment: top view, side view – it’s clinical, not the least bit emotional.

Bizarrely, the auction house chooses to mention a GIA certificate (apparently it’s VS1 clarity and J colour) but doesn’t tell us the certificate number or provide a pdf of the cert on their website.

Why would that be? My guess is that the diamond is a pretty poor cut and the certificate says so (it doesn’t look that great). Chances are that a diamond which has been cut to hit a weight threshold (i.e. to just beat 50 carats) is not the most Excellent cut.

Lastly there’s the ‘back story’ of the stone. We don’t need to know the buyer’s name – of course he has the right to privacy – but what we are told about the buyer and the diamond’s background is very vague and seems to detract from, rather than add to, the diamond’s allure and value.

A report (including video) can be found here, and the buyer is described as a Belgian hotelier who, because of the economic turmoil in Europe, has been ‘forced into auction‘ of the diamond. We’re told that one of the reasons the buyer has chosen the auction sales route is because it ‘guarantees him confidentiality‘. Yes, well, I think we can all draw our own conclusions from that…

The Managing Director of the auction house talks about “things of this calibre” being “liquidated“. He adds “We’re liquidating. This is a quick sale” – hardly romancing the stone, is it?

Meanwhile, the lead gemologist of the auction house says “I’ve never dealt with a diamond like this before“. His best guess is that the diamond was mined in South Africa, but admits he doesn’t know for sure.

Hmmm… not sure that I would want to buy a used car from these guys.

The stone is described as a “$10 million diamond”, but that’s retail, apparently, so they only expect to get $4 to $4.5 million for it at auction. Extraordinary.

And this from the same team, according to this report, which sold a pink diamond last year for $2.3 million having previously valued it at $8 to $12 million.

Anyway, good luck to them. We’ll bring you the auction result – if they publicise it…

UPDATE, 15th November 2011: Ritchies report that they sold the diamond for $3,107,500 – some distance short of $10m ‘retail’ and their pre-sale estimate of $4 to $4.5 million.

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