Diamonds:The Wittelsbach Diamond, the second largest blue diamond in the world, has smashed two world records. The 35.56 carat stone with clarity VS2 was sold at Christie's London on Dec. 10 for £16,393,250 or $24,311,190 U.S.

The Wittelsbach was purchased by leading international jeweler Laurence Graff, who was bidding against Aleks Paul of Essex Global Trading in New York. The previous record for a diamond was $16.5 million for a 100 carat diamond in Geneva in 1995. The Wittelsbach sale also sets a record for a piece of jewelry sold at auction. The results far exceed the $15 million estimate, a testament to how rare jewels can hold their value while stock markets plummet.

In May, a 13.39 carat blue diamond sold for $8.9 million at Christie's Geneva in May. The largest blue diamond, at 45.52 carats, is the Hope diamond. It is housed in the Smithsonian Institute in Washington. Prior to the sale, Francois Curiel, chairman of Christie's Europe and International Head of Jewellery, cited the grayish-blue stone's exceptionally rare colour, and its 300 years of royal connections, for making it one of the most thrilling jewels to come to market.

The Wittelsbach's history can be traced to the 17th century, when King Philip IV of Spain chose it as part of the dowry for his 15-year-old daughter, the Infanta Margarita Teresa. She wed Leopold I of Austria, who later became the Holy Roman Emperor. The stone passed to the Wittelsbachs, the royal family of Bavaria, when the Austrian archduchess, Maria Amalia, married the Bavarian prince Charles Albert in 1722. It stayed in the family even after the monarchy was abolished in 1918.

The Wittelsbach Blue came up for auction at Christies in 1931 but no buyer was found. The stone reappeared in 1961 when the heirs of one of Europe's most successful diamond dealers, Romi Goldmuntz, brought it to an Antwerp jeweler and asked that it be broken up into smaller stones. Thankfully, he refused. The diamond was purchased by a private collector in 1964. Heidi Horton, the wealthiest woman in Austria, has been seen wearing such a stone. Her late husband gave her a blue diamond as a wedding present in 1966. Bavarian authorities wanted to bring the stone home, but were not successful.

Bernadette Morra