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Hong Kong tycoon buys 7-year-old daughter US$77M in diamonds

Published:Thursday | November 12, 2015 | 12:00 AMAP
In this November 4, 2015 file photo a Sotheby's employee displays the rare Blue Moon Diamond during a preview at Sotheby's, in Geneva, Switzerland

A Hong Kong billionaire tycoon paid a total of US$77 million at auctions in Geneva for two large and rare coloured diamonds for his seven-year-old daughter Josephine - and renamed them after her, his office said Thursday.

Joseph Lau was the top bidder for the 12.03-carat 'Blue Moon' diamond that sold Wednesday night for a record-setting 48.6 million Swiss francs (US$48.5 million), said a spokeswoman for Lau, who declined to give her name. Sotheby's said the buyer promptly renamed the pricier gem 'The Blue Moon of Josephine'.

Lau was also the buyer of a 16.08-carat vivid pink diamond that sold for 28.7 million Swiss francs (US$28.5 million) auctioned by Christie's the night before, she said. The buyer renamed that diamond 'Sweet Josephine', Christie's said.

"Yes, the two diamonds are bought by Joseph Lau," said the spokeswoman, who added that they were named after Lau's daughter.

The blue diamond, set in a ring, was said to be among the largest known, fancy, vivid blue diamonds and was the showpiece gem at the Sotheby's jewellery auction.

The Blue Moon - named in reference to its rarity, playing off the expression "once in a blue moon" - topped the previous record of US$46.2 million set five years ago by the Graff Pink, Sotheby's said. The diamond also set a new record of more than US$4 million per carat, capping the day-long high-end jewellery sale that reaped roughly US$140 million.

Lau, a property developer with a fortune estimated by Forbes at US$9.9 billion, has a habit of snapping up expensive gems for his children.

At a Sotheby's Geneva auction in 2009, he bought another blue diamond, paying a then-record US$9.5 million for the 7.03-carat 'Star of Josephine'.

Last November, he also bought two gems for another daughter, 13-year-old Zoe, his spokeswoman said. One was a 9.75-carat blue diamond that he named 'Zoe Diamond' after buying it for about US$33 million at a Sotheby's auction in New York. He also spent 65 million Hong Kong dollars (US$8.4 million) for a 10.1-carat ruby and diamond brooch at a Christie's Hong Kong auction. He named that one 'Zoe Red'.

Lau was convicted last year by a Macau court of bribery and money laundering and sentenced to more than five years in prison. But Lau, who didn't attend the trial, has remained free by avoiding travel to the former Portuguese colony, which doesn't have an extradition treaty with nearby Hong Kong. Both cities are specially administered Chinese regions.

"Tonight we set a new world record, a new auction record for any diamond, any jewel, any gemstone, with the sale of the Blue Moon diamond," said auctioneer David Bennett in Geneva. He specified the price as US$48,468,158.

Blue diamonds are formed when boron is mixed with carbon when the gem is created.