Harry Winston bought the Rockefeller Emerald for a record price per carat at Christie’s New York on Tuesday.

The luxury jeweler’s CEO, Nayla Hayek, had instructed chief financial officer Robert Scott to “bring this magnificent gem home at any price,” Christie’s reported Wednesday. That price was $5.5 million, setting a world record of $305,516 per carat for an emerald at auction.

Prior to the sale, the price-per-carat record belonged to the 23.46-carat emerald and diamond pendant brooch that sold at Christie’s in New York for $6.5 million in 2011. Part of Elizabeth Taylor’s treasured suite of Bulgari emerald jewels, it achieved $280,000 per carat, a price greatly influenced by the set’s historic provenance.

The fact that the Rockefeller emerald eclipsed even Elizabeth Taylor’s legacy demonstrates the increasing popularity – and value – of coloured stones at auction; although the stone does carry an impressive provenance of its own.

Rockefeller Emerald – history

The emerald was bought by John D. Rockefeller Junior, the only son of the Standard Oil co-founder after whom he was named, in 1930. It was originally set in the centre of an impressive brooch for Rockefeller Jr’s wife, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller.

When she died in 1948 the stones from the brooch were divided between their five children and this emerald was bequeathed to their youngest son, David Rockefeller.

When faced with what to do with such a treasured family stone, David turned to the jeweller with whom his father had established a close relationship – Raymond Yard.

Rockefeller Jr had played a key role in the American jeweller’s career, encouraging him to set up his own company, which he did in 1922, and introducing Yard to fellow members of New York society such as the Vanderbilts and the Woolworths. Yard set the emerald in a platinum ring, flanked by diamonds, and it has remained in this classic setting until today.


Renowned for their exceptional colour and clarity, Colombian emeralds achieve the highest prices in private sales and at auction, and large examples are increasingly rare on the market.

Due to its distinctive colour the Rockefeller emerald is believed to originate from Colombia. The American Gemological Laboratories describe it as “exceptional“, with “an unusual combination of size, provenance, absence of treatment and quality factors [that contribute] favourably to its rarity and desirability“.

The ring, which was sold by an American private collector, fittingly enough was auctioned at Christie’s New York, whose saleroom is located within the Rockefeller Center.

Harry Winston is immensely proud to own the finest emerald in the world, which once belonged to one of America’s most important dynasties,” Hayek said.

The acquisition comes less than a month after the jeweler spent $8.9 million, or $2.2 million per carat, on a fancy vivid blue diamond at Christie’s Hong Kong.

Tuesday’s Magnificent Jewels auction at the Rockefeller Plaza salesroom in Manhattan fetched a total of $26.1 million, selling 83% by lot and 89% by value.

Other jewels at the event included a modified lozenge mixed-cut, 5.01-carat, fancy deep grayish-bluish-green, VS2-clarity diamond, which found a buyer at $4.4 million, or $876,547 per carat. A round brilliant-cut, 16.11-carat, D-color, flawless diamond went for $1.9 million, or $119,646 per carat.

The results “underscore the strength in the market for pieces of the highest quality,” said Tom Burstein, Christie’s head of jewelry for the US.

Video credit: Christie’s