Auctions

126 Mineral Specimens from Collector Hester Diamond Up for Auction

AuctionsJan 28, 2021

126 Mineral Specimens from Collector Hester Diamond Up for Auction

The Sotheby’s sale features minerals from well-known historic sources as well as a number of large and rare specimens.

Always keen on aesthetics, the late Hester Diamond showcased her minerals in open shelves in colors that complemented the specimens.

New York—The late Hester Diamond has been described as a fearless collector, and now everyone can get a peek at what she amassed over the years.

Diamond was a prominent New York interior designer and philanthropist (and mother of Beastie Boy “Mike D”), and now her collection of art and minerals is going up on the block in a single-owner auction.

The sale will take place in New York this week as part of Sotheby’s annual “Masters Week” auctions.

According to Sotheby’s, the Bronx native loved art from a young age, visiting New York City’s museums almost every afternoon after finishing her classes at Hunter College.

After starting her career as a social worker in the early 1950s but wanting to pursue a career in the arts, Diamond took a position at leading antiques gallery Stair and Company in Manhattan.

Through her work there, Diamond and her first husband, Harold, became friends with Martha Jackson, who owned an important gallery of cutting-edge contemporary art on 57th Street.

The couple soon became immersed in the art world, and Diamond also established a thriving interior design business, which got off the ground thanks to her help decorating the home of a Johnson & Johnson heir.

Harold died in 1983, and Diamond wed again, marrying Ralph Kaminsky. She continued to collect art, selling her modern art collection to focus on Old Masters, and took a unique approach to displaying the collection in her home, contrasting modern and contemporary pieces with vibrant colors, angular shapes and hard edges.

She used this same approach with her mineral collection, displaying the specimens on a series of custom-made, open-air shelves crafted in colors that mimicked the hues of the minerals, as seen in the image at the top of the article.

The presentation created a 360-degree gallery in her office and throughout her home.

True to her love for aesthetics, rather than acquiring pieces based on geology, Diamond preferred the specimens with colors and a look that spoke to her, favoring rare and significant sizes.


This fine aquamarine on matrix is from the Gilgit District of northern Pakistan. Its current bid of $7,500 is already above its pre-sale high estimate of $6,000.

Diamond died in January 2020 at the age of 91.

Now, 126 minerals specimens from her collection—sourced from over a century of important discoveries across the globe and gathered by Diamond

over the last three decades—will go up for auction.

The specimens feature minerals from some of the most well-known and important historic sources, like rhodochrosite and smoky quartz with amazonite from Colorado or a large Colombian emerald crystal.

Her collection also reflects the contemporary discoveries in Asia driving mineral collecting today, like the important Chinese fluorite, calcite and pyromorphite finds.

Highlights include a pink tourmaline in quartz, estimated to go for $20,000-$30,000, and a pink fluorite on pyrite, also estimated at up to $30,000.

In an interview with Sotheby’s, Will Larson of Pala Minerals called the pink fluorite his favorite due to its rarity and its coloring, noting, “pink is the most sought-after color of the ever-popular fluorite and the aesthetics on highly lustrous golden pyrite cubes are incredible.”

There is also an important smoky quartz with amazonite from Colorado ($20,000-$30,000); a bicolor tourmaline from Afghanistan ($12,000-$18,000); and a rhodochrosite from the Sweet Home Mine in Colorado ($8,000-$12,000).

See some of the highlights in the gallery below.


“Fearless: The Collection of Hester Diamond Part II,” is taking place online and ends tomorrow (Jan. 29); several specimens are being sold without reserve, meaning there is no minimum price.

To view all mineral lots before the sale closes Friday, visit Sothebys.com.

This part of the auction also features memorabilia from rap-rock group the Beastie Boys, as Diamond’s son is Michael Diamond, better known to Beastie Boy fans as “Mike D.”

Meanwhile, the selection of art works on offer in Part I of the auction (held for one day only, Friday, Jan. 29) features an “unparalleled selection” of Old Master paintings and sculpture, including examples of early Italian Renaissance painting, early Netherlandish painting, and several terracotta, marble and wood European sculpture from masters.

Leading the collection is a rare sculpture by Gian Lorenzo Bernini and his father, Pietro, called “Autumn.”

Estimated to sell for between $8 and $12 million, it is one of only a handful of sculptures by Bernini and his father that remain in private hands, Sotheby’s said.

View those lots online ahead of the live auction.

Editor’s note: The headline of this story was edited on Feb. 2, 2021, to reflect that there were 126 minerals in the sale, not 127, as the auction house initially confirmed, The text in the story also was updated to reflect the change in number. 

Brecken Branstratoris the senior editor, gemstones at National Jeweler, covering sourcing, pricing and other developments in the colored stone sector.

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