Sotheby’s to accept cryptocurrency for 100+ carat diamond


Over the last few months, cryptocurrency has started to make its mark in the world of physical art and objects. Today, it takes its biggest stride yet, as Sotheby’s announces that cryptocurrency will be accepted as payment for one of the earth’s rarest and greatest treasures – an exceptional 101.38-carat pear-shaped D Flawless diamond.

Diamonds of this importance are exceptionally rare, with fewer than ten 100 carat+ examples ever having come to auction, only two of them pear-shaped – making the appearance of this flawless gem a landmark event in itself.

The fact that cryptocurrency is to be accepted as payment also marks a significant moment in the evolution of the market: no other physical object with an estimate even approaching the US$10-15 million (HK$78-118 million) estimate this diamond carries, has ever been publicly offered for purchase with cryptocurrency. Sotheby's

Credit: Sotheby’s

Exceedingly rare, 100-carat diamonds have achieved a mythical status, and those that are of a pear shape have particular resonance, not least because their cut echoes that of the Cullinan I – perhaps the most famous diamond in the world, currently housed in the Tower of London and mounted in the Imperial Sceptre of Great Britain. Pear-shaped diamonds of this stature are of great rarity on the market, with only two having appeared at auction to date. This one, recently christened the ‘The Key 10138’, is the second largest pear-shaped diamond ever to appear on the public market.

The diamond will be offered in a single-lot live sale at Sotheby’s Hong Kong on 9 July 2021, with bidding open online from 25 June 2021. While fiat will be accepted as is customary, payment in either Ether or Bitcoin will also be possible – facilitated through Coinbase Commerce, one of the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchanges. Sotheby's

Credit: Sotheby’s

Currently available to view by appointment at Sotheby’s New York, this exceptional gem will be on exhibition at Sotheby’s Hong Kong Gallery, from 3 until 8 July. It will be the star lot of Sotheby’s inaugural Luxury Edit sale series in Asia, bringing together some of the finest luxury items available on the market – everything from jewels to watches, handbags and rare sneakers – all on exhibit and available to purchase via auction at Sotheby’s.

Wenhao Yu, Deputy Chairman of Sotheby’s Jewellery in Asia, said: “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. Never was there a better moment to bring a world-class diamond such as this to the market.

Josh Pullan, Managing Director, Global Luxury Division, said: “Over the past year we’ve seen a voracious appetite for jewels and other luxury items from collectors across the globe. Increasingly that demand is coming from a younger, digitally native generation; many of whom are in Asia. We’re thrilled to present this exceptional diamond as the highlight of our cross-category Luxury Edit series in Hong Kong and to continue our commitment to innovation by accepting payment in cryptocurrency for this landmark item.”


The sale of the diamond, along with the inauguration of Sotheby’s Luxury Edit series in Hong Kong, comes at a moment when demand for white diamonds, particularly of this quality, and for luxury items more generally, is particularly strong,  with 80% of the white diamonds offered in Sotheby’s Magnificent Jewels auctions this year having found buyers, and 30% of buyers in its luxury sales completely new to Sotheby’s.

In fact, the announcement of the ‘The Key 10138’, comes just days after a new record price was set  for any jewel sold in an online auction, with a 50.03 carat round diamond — offered without reserve – achieving US$2.7 million at Sotheby’s last week. 


Name: The name of the diamond, ‘The Key 10138’, was chosen to capture both the past, and the present and future. 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.

Wenhao Yu, Deputy Chairman of Sotheby’s Jewellery in Asia, said: “Diamonds are keys to understanding the history of the Earth, reminding us of our human condition and the transcendental power of beauty. With the name ‘The Key 10138’, we wanted to celebrate this enlightening virtue, while also alluding to the crucial function of digital keys in the world of NFTs and cryptocurrency.”

Shape: In fact, the shape of ‘The Key 10138’ is also significant: many of the most important diamonds in history are pear-shaped, including those of royal provenance. Perhaps the most famous of all is the Cullinan I, also known as the Great Star of Africa, which, at an enormous 530 carats, is the largest faceted diamond of the colourless range in the world, and currently housed in the Tower of London and mounted in the Imperial Sceptre of Great Britain.

Purity: The diamond has achieved the highest gradings in both colour (D colour – the highest grade for a white diamond) and clarity (completely flawless, both internally and externally). It also belongs to the rare subgroup comprising less than 2% of all gem diamonds, known as Type IIa. Diamonds in this group are the most chemically pure type of diamond and often have exceptional optical transparency.


This July, Sotheby’s will stage its inaugural ‘Luxury Edit’ sale series in Asia, bringing together an innovative cross-category selling concept to present extraordinary objects in a new light. Encompassing jewellery, watches, handbags, and rare sneakers, this format is tailored to the increasing trend of cross-collecting in these categories, and follows Sotheby’s robust results for dedicated luxury sales in Geneva and New York this year, which have amassed a total of US$161.3 million to date, engaging 30% of new bidders from more than 70 countries.

In addition to the 101.38 carat D Colour Flawless Diamond, highlights from the Hong Kong showcase range from the F.P. Journe Tourbillon Souverain to the highly coveted Hermes Himalaya Birkin and Nike Air Force 1 1World CLOT Special Box.Sotheby's

Credit: Sotheby’s