The Red Hancock Diamond

The Legend of a Rare diamond

Only very few red diamonds have ever been found in the world. Due to their rarity; members of the Red Diamond family, like the Hancock Red, often claim the spotlight and ultimately become a legend. For centuries people did not understand their value, nor showed any interest in possessing them. The stones were often misidentified as rubies. However, with increments in the industry’s ability to detect and understand gemstones, their value has dramatically increased. Such was the degree of the red gemstone’s resurgence that occurred during this era, that the Hancock Red ended up holding the record for the highest price per carat at the time.

In this article, you will find:

The 0.95 ct Red Hancock Diamond, auctioned by Christie’s New York on April 28, 1987. © GIA & Tino Hammid
The 0.95 ct Red Hancock Diamond, auctioned by Christie’s New York on April 28, 1987. © GIA & Tino Hammid
Discovered in
Unknown (Presumed 1956)
Country of Origin
Presumed Brazil
Mine of Origin
Not specified
Carat Weight
0.95 carats
Cut Shape
Round Brilliant Cut
Information unavailable
Deep Red
Previous Owners
  • Arnold Baron
  • Warren Hancock
Current Owner
Anonymous buyer (after Theodore Horovitz)
Estimated Value
Sold for $880,000 in 1987

Origins of the Red Hancock Diamond

Little is known about the Red Hancock Diamond’s origins. We do not know when it was mined, but its country of origin is presumed to be Brazil. The reason for this assumption is that in 1956 the red diamond was found in the collection of the son of a Brazillian diamond cutter. 

Random collectors with whimsical taste

The father used to purchase rough diamonds from prospectors to re-sell them but had the savvy to keep the fancy colored ones for himself. Perhaps, it was not savvy, maybe it was just a whim…maybe he just enjoyed their particular hues, seeing the value of colored stones was understated at the time. Anyways, the son was more interested in a life full of songs, wine, and women than one that focused on preserving his father’s legacy. Eventually, and perhaps because of his spending lifestyle, he was forced to sell his father’s diamond collection. 

Arnold Baron bought the diamonds from the unnamed Brazilian in 1956. Arnold was a dealer in fancy-colored stones and operated a jewelry store in Billing, Montana. He had already established a friendship with the fancy-colored diamond collector William Hancock. Hancock had begun collecting rare colored diamonds already in the early 50s and reportedly opened their business relationship with the purchase of a blue 2-carat diamond for the sum of 5,500 dollars. The blue stone was cut by the famous Lazar Kaplan. The man who also cut the Jonker Diamond, the first big diamond processed in the United States. 

The gem is sold to Warren Hancock in Montana

Among Baron’s collection of colored diamonds, three gems were red, the largest of them weighing 0.95 carats. Both the smaller red and pink diamonds were sold in the same year. Moreover, the larger gem was set for 13,500$, and according to his own words, Baron felt worried about charging Hancock too much. In the 1950s only a few people were interested in colored diamonds, and their prices were much lower than today. 

Cutting of the Red Hancock Diamond

There is no available information about the cutting of the Hancock diamond. When it appeared in history it had already been a 0.95-carat round brilliant cut.

Ownership History of the Red Hancock Diamond

There is no available information about the original owners of the Hancock Diamond. The first recorded purchase of the diamond was when it was bought by the diamond dealer Arnold Baron. The red diamond was part of a large collection of fancy-colored diamonds. Baron sold the diamond to Warren Hancock in 1956. 

Hancock gave the diamond its name. He was the founder of Hancock Enterprises, an oil-exploration company based in Montana, US. Yet, he also happened to be a keen diamond collector. He held onto his diamond collection until his death. However, the Hancock family ran into financial problems after Warren’s passing in 1981. 

The Hancock family had to sell the gem out of necessity

The Hancocks were rich in assets but were strapped for cash. The family faced an enormous tax bill from the IRS that amounted to 1 million dollars. Warren’s son reportedly said that they had to either sell their business or sell some of the diamonds in the collection. A difficult decision had to be made, ultimately, the family had to sell parts of the accumulated treasure. However, the Hancock Red along with other stones were sent to Antwerp, Belgium for display; a move that succeeded in generating great public interest and after which a flurry of inquiries followed. 

The final decision was made to sell the family diamond collection at an auction by Christie’s in New York in 1987. The Hancocks were desperate to generate any cash profits to pay off their taxes. To their surprise, Christie chose only three of the diamonds. A .95 carat red, a .59 purple-pink, and a .54 reddish-purple. What followed was nothing short of a miracle for the Hancocks’ hopes. 

The Hancock diamond sparks a bidding war at an auction

The pre-sale estimate for the Red Hancock Diamond was 150,000 dollars per carat. Industry experts believed that the gem had clarity problems, and would not reach the presale estimate. However, what ensued was a bidding war between Theodore Horovitz from Geneva and Lisa Moussaieff from London. Horovitz eventually prevailed and purchased the Hancock Red for 880,000 dollars or 926,315 dollars per carat. 

Another stroke of luck for the Hancock family was that the 0.59 carat pink diamond was bought by William Goldberg for 148,000 dollars. Together with the 880,000 dollar sale of the Hancock diamond, the family would receive over a million dollars in profits, which would solve all of its financial problems.

The Hancock diamond sets a luxurious record

On April 28, 1987, a new world record was set for the highest price per carat paid for any gem. This new record price completely trumped the previous record of 127,000 dollars per carat for a 7.27-carat pink diamond. Horovitz had reported that he was ready to bid up to one million dollars for the Hancock Red. Many suspected that he was acting as an intermediary for the Sultan of Brunei. The Sultan was an avid diamond collector and was responsible for the high prices of several colored diamonds. However, Horovitz denied any connections to the Sultan. He later sold the gem to an anonymous buyer. 

Technical Characteristics of the Red Hancock Diamond

The Red Hancock Diamond is a 0.95ct round brilliant cut. Its clarity grade is unavailable, but its most outstanding characteristic is its deep red color. Red is the rarest color among diamonds, with less than 30 being found worldwide. The GIA explains that red is the result of “defects in the atomic structure that result from gliding of carbon atoms along the octahedral direction”. Such gliding occurs very rarely, as a result of tectonic plate collisions, causing plastic deformation in diamond crystals. The formation of such diamonds takes millions of years. 

Significance of the Red Hancock Diamond

The Hancock Red is a media pioneer among colored diamonds

The Red Hancock Diamond is famous due to the exorbitant sum for which it was sold in 1987. It is one of the first fancy-colored diamonds to ever attract the attention of newspaper headlines. The record price per carat was instrumental in helping the Hancock family keep running the family business. Moreover, it showed the merits of Warren Hancock as a great investor. His 13,500 dollar investment generated a 6500% profit.

However, the record sale of the Hancock Red Diamond was an extremely significant event in bringing public attention to colored gemstones. The word about the Hancock spread among fashion icons, celebrities, and royalty around the world. The media also played an instrumental role in telling the tale of this stone. As a result, the demand for fancy colored diamonds would increase and spur industry professionals to get better at understanding how to process colored gems to derive their best flare. 

In this sense, the Hancock was a pioneer among fancy colored diamonds and brought the world’s attention to them. It took them out of obscurity and placed them in the limelight.

We hope you enjoyed the read!

If you’d like to read about other famous diamonds like the OrlovEureka, or Premier Rose diamonds, you can visit Ajediam’s Famous Diamonds glossary. Or, if you’re feeling inspired, you can browse Ajediam’s premium diamond collections shop.