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Large and very beautiful diamond to beat record for most expensive jewel

The record for the most expensive jewel ever sold at an auction could be beaten by an 84.37-carat white diamond touted by Sotheby's.

Sotheby's has put an estimated value of US$12 million-US$16 million (EUR8.2 million-EUR11 million) on the jewel, the largest top-quality, brilliant-cut white diamond ever to appear at auction.

The company's Geneva branch still holds the auction record for the most expensive stone or piece of jewelry ever sold: a 100.1-carat diamond that fetched US$16.5 million in May 1995.

While that stone had no pre-listed price, the white diamond has been given a "fair" estimate based on price per carat, said David Bennett, the auction house's chairman of jewelry for Europe and the Middle East.

"In my 32-year career, this stone ranks among the most beautiful diamonds I have ever seen," Bennett said last month when announcing the sale. He called it a "magnificent and unique stone."

The diamond has received the highest possible grading, Sotheby's said. It is D-color, or finest white, has flawless clarity and its cut, polish and symmetry have all been graded excellent, it said.

The New York-based company is hoping the "Magnificent Jewels" sale at Geneva's historic Beau Rivage hotel will help it bounce back from the disheartening results of its Impressionist and Modern Art auction, which sent its stock tumbling.

The sale last week fetched US$269.7 million (EUR185 million), well short of estimates, and led some analysts to speculate whether the flight from risk currently gripping financial markets may be spilling over into the art world.

The company announced that it lost US$14.6 million (EUR10 million) by purchasing paintings that failed to sell.

The white diamond already has been showcased in Hong Kong, Paris, New York, Rome, Los Angeles, London, Dubai and Bahrain. The auction Wednesday will also feature other diamonds, colored stones and gems from the world's leading jewelers.