101-carat diamond sells at auction for $12.3 million in cryptocurrency

A mystery buyer has purchased a massive, exceedingly rare 101.38-carat diamond in a Sotheby’s auction for $12.3 million — and they paid using cryptocurrency.

Sotheby’s Hong Kong announced last month that it would accept offers for the stunning pear-shaped gemstone in Bitcoin and Ethereum, as well as traditional payment methods. The auction house did not specify which cryptocurrency was used to purchase the stone, but said that “no other physical object with an estimate even approaching the $10-15 million estimate this diamond carries, has ever been publicly offered for purchase with cryptocurrency.”

The diamond, called “The Key 10138,” sold to an anonymous private collector. Sotheby’s says it is the second-largest pear-shaped diamond ever sold, calling the sale a “milestone” in the adoption of cryptocurrency at auction.

Explaining the name, Sotheby’s said, “Historically keys, like diamonds, have been a symbol of power and of the freedom that comes with it. Now, keys of a digital kind are critical to the functioning of cryptocurrency.”

The diamond is classified as a “D color,” the highest grade for white diamonds, as well as the highest grade for clarity, having been verified internally and externally as “flawless.”

The auction house said the diamond is just one of 10 of its quality and size to ever be auctioned.

“This is a truly symbolic moment. The most ancient and emblematic denominator of value can now, for the first time, be purchased using humanity’s newest universal currency,” Wenhao Yu, Sotheby’s deputy chairman for jewelry in Asia, said in a statement. “Never was there a better moment to bring a world-class diamond such as this to the market.

The art world and the digital currency world have become closely intertwined in recent months, as auction houses have started selling big-ticket NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, to high-paying internet bidders. The NFT-craze may be partially attributed to Christie’s, which sold an NFT made by the artist Beeple for over $69 million in March.

In May, Sotheby’s collaborated with Coinbase to accept cryptocurrency as payment for a physical piece of art for the first time, selling a work by Banksy for $12.9 million.