Sotheby's breaks another bitcoin milestone with rare diamond auction

Cryptocurrencies and other blockchain-based technologies continue to have an impact in major auctions.
Cryptocurrencies and other blockchain-based technologies continue to have an impact in major auctions Photo credit: Getty Images / Sotheby's

Sotheby's has announced it will accept cryptocurrencies as payment for a rare 101.38 carat diamond in an upcoming auction.

The pear-shaped flawless gemstone, named 'The Key 10138' to reflect the role that keys have in the cryptocurrency world, is valued between NZ$14.3 million and NZ$21.7 million. 

It goes under the hammer next month in what the company called "a significant moment in the evolution of the market".

Based on the current value of bitcoin, NZ$45,503, potential Kiwi purchasers will need between 314 and 477 bitcoin in their digital wallets to take the diamond home.

"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," Patti Wong, chairman of Sotheby's Asia, said in a statement.

The famed auction house has been dabbling with cryptocurrency lately and payment via bitcoin and ethereum were options when it sold Banksy's iconic artwork "Love is in the Air" in May.

But this is the first time a diamond of such size has been auctioned with payment offered via cryptocurrency, and no physical object of such high value has previously been sold with the option, Sotheyby's said.

Cryptocurrencies and other blockchain-based technologies like non-fungible tokens (NFTs) have made a big impact in the art world this year.

Earlier this month Sotheby's auctioned a rare CryptoPunk NFT for NZ$16.4 million and has announced the sale of an NFT commemorating the start of the internet from World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee starting this week.

And in March Christie's sold a digital artwork entitled "Everydays - The First 5000 Days" by artist Beeple for nearly US$70 million, the first ever sale by a major auction house for a non-physical piece of art.

After its first sale of NFTs in April, Michael Bouhanna, contemporary art specialist at Sotheby's in London said NFT artworks were increasingly appealing to existing clients.

"I've seen some crossover with our collector base, very active in contemporary art, who are very intrigued and wanted to learn more," he said.