Humans have been wearing jewelry for tens of thousands of years. For almost as long as jewelry’s been around, it’s been viewed as a measure of status, wealth, and class. This has led to some pretty outrageous jewelry purchases throughout history—jewelry so insanely expensive that only the wealthiest of the wealthy could even consider buying it. Here are some of the most expensive pieces of jewelry ever worn.
1. The Graff Pink
This stunning knockout of a ring is the most expensive piece of jewelry ever sold at an auction. This massive 24.78-carat pink diamond was purchased for $46 million. You read that right—$46 freaking million! The origins of this exceedingly rare jewel are unclear, but we do know that famous jeweler Harry Winston was in possession of it in the 1950s. He sold it to a private collector, who held onto it until 2010 when it was put up for auction and sold for that astronomical price. Why does this particular ring command such a mind-boggling price? The scarcity of pink diamonds larger than 20-carats is a big part of the answer, and the sheer beauty of the ring plays a big role as well.
2. The Wittelsbach-Graff Diamond
This piece of bling has a long and storied history. Originally discovered in the mines of the Indian kingdom of Golkonda, this 35.56-carat diamond was supposedly included in the dowry of the daughter of King Philip IV of Spain, Margaret Theresa, in 1664. It later became a part of the royal Wittelsbach family, and was prominently featured on the crown of the first King of Bavaria, Maximilian IV Joseph von Wittelsbach, in 1806. It went into private collection in the 1960s, and was sold to its current owner in 2008 for $23.4 million, holding the title of the most expensive piece of jewelry ever sold in auction until the Graff Pink eclipsed it in 2010. The same man, London-based jeweler Laurence Graff, owns both this diamond and the Graff Pink. Graff raised eyebrows when he announced his intention to alter the Wittelsbach diamond, but moved forward nonetheless. 4.45 carats and indeterminable historical significance were lost in the process, but the resulting diamond is technically of higher caliber.
3. The Perfect Pink
Another large pink diamond ring, the Perfect Pink sold for $23 million in 2010. This 14.23-carat beauty was purchased by an anonymous buyer at a Christie’s Hong Kong auction. Again, the high price of pink diamonds stems from their scarcity; Christie’s says that only 18 pink diamonds of more than 10-carats have appeared at their auction house in its 244-year history. Another reason for the sky-high price: pink diamonds usually display some sort of color modifier, such as purple, grey or orange, but the Perfect Pink shows absolutely no trace of any other hue sullying its pinkness—hence its name.
4. Bulgari Blue Diamond Ring
This sensational ring was designed by the legendary Bulgari company in the 1970s, and was purchased in1972 by a man who gave it to his wife after the birth of their first child. It features a triangle-shaped colorless 9.87-carat diamond, as well as a triangle-shaped fancy vivid blue diamond of 10.95 carats—the largest of its kind ever to be sold at auction. The combined diamond worth on this ring is truly astounding: it was purchased by an Asian collector for $15.76 million after a three-way bidding war.
Madeline Marshall graduated with a degree in history from UC Santa Cruz.