Shirley Temple's 9.54-carat blue diamond ring was billed as the star of Sotheby's New York auction on Tuesday, but went unsold when the bidding stalled at $22 million, short of the reserve price and well below the high estimate of $35 million.
"The Shirley Temple Blue Diamond is an exceptional stone in quality, rarity and provenance. It has been an honor to share its story with collectors, connoisseurs and Temple's loyal fans over the past few months," Sotheby's noted a statement. "Unfortunately, tonight wasn't its night in the salesroom, but we remain fully confident that it will find a buyer."
Temple was nearly 12 years old and had just wrapped up her new film, The Blue Bird, when her father, George Francis, surprised the box office phenomenon with a cushion-cut fancy deep blue diamond in an Art Deco-inspired platinum setting. George Francis paid $7,210 for the ring 76 years ago, which is equivalent to about $122,000 today. The diamond had earned a grade of VVS2 and was presented at the auction in its original platinum setting.
As an adult, Shirley Temple Black became a diplomat, serving as a United Nations delegate, U.S. Ambassador to Ghana and later as the U.S. Ambassador to Czechoslovakia. She reportedly wore her blue diamond ring throughout her life. She died in February of 2014 at that age of 85.
The poor showing for Temple's blue diamond came only two weeks after the slightly larger and internally flawless 10.10-carat “De Beers Millennium Jewel 4” set an Asian auction record at Sotheby’s Hong Kong when it sold for $32 million. The pre-sale estimate for the fancy vivid blue gem had been $30 to $36 million.
On May 18 at Christie’s Geneva, the 14.62-carat rectangular-cut “Oppenheimer Blue” has a chance to set a new record for the highest price ever paid for a diamond of any color. The current record of $48.5 million is held by the 12.03-carat cushion-shaped internally flawless “Blue Moon” (now called “Blue Moon of Josephine”). The Oppenheimer Blue boasts a VVS1 clarity and is the largest fancy vivid blue diamond ever offered at auction.
Images courtesy of Sotheby’s. Shirley Temple promo shot ©20thCentFox/Courtesy Everett Collection.