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Rich in buying frenzy at auction

By Judy Martel · Bankrate.com
Monday, December 2, 2013
Posted: 6 am ET

It's not exactly like lining up outside the big-box store for 5 a.m. doorbuster deals, but the ultra-rich shopped for art and gems in a fever in November. Both Christie's and Sotheby's set record sales in a single week.

Christie's auctioned the largest vivid-orange diamond known to exist, at 14.82 carats, for $36 million. It was the highest per-carat price ever paid at auction. Not to be outdone, Sotheby's proceeded to unload the most expensive diamond ever sold at auction, the so-called "Pink Star," a 59.6-carat flawless gem, for $83.2 million.

Diamond prices weren't the only record-breakers. The most expensive work of art ever sold topped off a record haul at the Christie's auction of $691,583,000, including commissions. The painting "Three Studies of Lucian Freud" by Francis Bacon sold for $142.4 million.

Sotheby's also staged the largest auction in its history, led by another celebrated artist, Andy Warhol. His painting "Silver Car Crash (Doubled Disaster)" went for $105 million. The auction of contemporary art totaled $380.6 million.

It's not unusual for the rich to invest in tangible assets as a hedge against stock market volatility or a weak economy. But as prices soar at auction, it makes sense to take note of a potential bubble. As with any investment, the price of art depends on buyer demand and that can be fickle.

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