Rare Martian Pink diamond sold for $17.4m in Hong Kong

The Martian Pink, a 12.04-carat Fancy Intense pink (Type IIa) diamond, is shown during a media preview at Christie's in Hong Kong, 8 May, 2012 The Martian Pink is an extremely rare stone

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A rare pink diamond has been auctioned for $17.4m (£11.1m) - far higher than expected - after six minutes of frenzied bidding in Hong Kong.

Auctioneers Christie's say that the diamond - the biggest of its kind ever to be sold - was bought by an anonymous telephone bidder.

The Martian Pink diamond is extremely rare. Its owner believed it would fetch the best price in Hong Kong.

The diamond had been expected to sell for between $8m and $12m (£5m - £7.6m).

"The bids were very competitive... there was a lot of excitement... when it finally did come up for sale the buzz in the room was sensational," said Christie's auctioneer Rahul Kadakia.

The 12-carat gem got its name in 1976 when it was sold by US jeweller Harry Winston. It was the same year the US sent a satellite to Mars, and the gem was named for the colour of the planet.

"It comes from Harry Winston, who was so impressed that the Americans had landed on Mars in 1976 that he looked at his inventory and he found a rough diamond which probably could come out as pink," said Francois Curiel, from Christie's jewellery department.

"So he cut it, and he cut it in such a way that the intensity of the thing was larger than any of the other things that he had ever cut before."

The current American owner had wanted the diamond to be sold in Hong Kong, Mr Curiel said.

"He had studied the market pretty well and seen that all the top prices recently were obtained in Hong Kong because of the presence of the Chinese, and several other countries from South East Asia were very, very keen on diamonds," he said.

The most famous pink diamond in the world belongs to Queen Elizabeth II.

The Williamson Pink was given to the British queen for her wedding in 1947 - the cut, 23.6-carat round stone was later set in a brooch.

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