A 9.54-carat blue diamond ring purchased for child star Shirley Temple by her father in 1940 is expected to sell for $25 million to $35 million when it hits the auction block at Sotheby's New York in April.
Temple was one month from celebrating her 12th birthday and had just wrapped up her new film, The Blue Bird, when her father, George Francis, surprised the vivacious youngster with a cushion-cut fancy deep blue diamond in an Art Deco-inspired platinum setting. The split shank is adorned with baguette diamonds.
Some believe the movie's "blue" theme inspired the dad to choose a blue diamond. Temple adored the ring and wore it for most of her life.
George Francis paid $7,210 for the ring 76 years ago, which is equivalent to about $122,000 today. The appreciation of the ring over that time is mind boggling.
"Colored diamonds were not quite as understood or appreciated or sought after at that time as they are now," noted Frank Everett, Sales Director for the Jewelry Department of Sotheby's New York. "...It was really, really a wise investment on his part, I will say that."
Added Gary Schuler, Co-Chairman of Sotheby’s Jewelry, Americas, “It’s remarkable to have one stone illustrate the dramatic shift in attitude towards colored diamonds over the course of the last century. Today, we recognize these stones as the definition of rarity, and they are eagerly sought-after in our current market for that very reason."
Temple, who famously sang "On the Good Ship Lollipop" in the film Bright Eyes as a six-year-old, was "America's Little Darling" during the 1930s and helped lift America's spirits out of the Great Depression.
She was the #1 box office star from 1935 through 1938 and, as an adult, became a diplomat, serving as a United Nations delegate, United States Ambassador to Ghana and later to Czechoslovakia. In a 1969 AP photo, Shirley Temple Black is shown wearing her blue diamond ring during a United Nations swearing-in ceremony. She died in February of 2014 at that age of 85.
Interestingly, only one week ago, we ran a blog item about another spectacular blue diamond that will be the featured lot at Sotheby's Hong Kong on April 5. Weighing 10.10 carats, the oval-shaped fancy vivid blue “De Beers Millennium Jewel 4” is expected to fetch between $30 million and $35 million.
All this comes on the heels of the blockbuster performance of the “Blue Moon,” which crushed the world auction record for any diamond or any gemstone – as well as a record price-per-carat for any diamond or gemstone – when the 12.03-carat fancy vivid blue diamond sold for $48.5 million ($4.03 million per carat) at Sotheby's Geneva.
The "Blue Moon" diamond was purchased by Hong Kong billionaire Joseph Lau, who renamed it the "Blue Moon of Josephine" in honor of his young daughter.
The "Shirley Temple Blue" carries a clarity grade of VVS2 and was rated "potentially internally flawless." The ring, in its original platinum setting (Temple also commissioned a gold setting for the gem in 1972), will headline Sotheby's Magnificent Jewels sale in New York on April 19. Both settings will be included in the lot.
All images courtesy of Sotheby’s. Shirley Temple promo shot and movie poster ©20thCentFox/Courtesy Everett Collection. Model/hand shot via Donald Bowers/Getty Images for Sotheby's. Shirley Temple Black is sworn in as a U.N. delegate, Sept. 16, 1969 (AP Photo).