Rapaport Magazine

Color Scores Big

Sotheby’s sets a new world auction record per-carat price for a Kashmir sapphire.

By Amber Michelle

A 28.18-carat Kashmir sapphire and diamond ring sold for $5,093,000.
Photo courtesy Sotheby’s.

Top-quality diamond prices, while stable, appear to be leveling off as those stones continue to sell well. The big surprise at the recent Sotheby’s New York Magnificent Jewels auction was the trend to lower-color — J, K, L — diamonds of 5 carats to 15 carats or more, which remain more affordable to buyers They sold briskly for strong prices. These stones offer a big look without breaking the bank. Overall, prices paid for jewelry and stones stayed within a reasonable range of the presale estimates with nothing going into the stratosphere, as has been the case over the past few years. There was a respectable crowd in the room bidding and observing, but much of the action was on the phone and there were a record number of online bidders registered this time, according to Lisa Hubbard, chairman, North & South America, Sotheby’s international jewelry division.
   “White diamond speculation is out of the market and with that gone, prices are stable,” explains Gary Schuler, head of Sotheby’s jewelry department, New York. A lot of private goods were in the sale at affordable prices, about 50 percent off list, which helped to create a strong market. Colored diamonds sold well, with the exception of yellows, which remain a soft spot.
   The sale garnered $44,313,500 against a presale estimate of $36.8 million to $48.2 million. It was sold 87 percent by value and 81.8 percent by lot. This compares to the December 2013 sale, which brought in $60,550,813 against a presale estimate of $41 million to $58 million. The April 2013 sale scored $53,490,938.
   The top lot of the day was a 15.23-carat fancy intense orangy pink diamond that sold to an American private for $6,101,000,* or $400,590 per carat. Bidding for the stone was quick and stopped just at the low estimate.
   Notable in the sale was the number-two top lot, a 28.18-carat Kashmir sapphire and diamond ring that sold to an anonymous bidder for $5,093,000, setting a world auction record per-carat price for a sapphire of $180,731. The sapphire first came to Sotheby’s in 1983 and sold for $640,000, which was a big price at that time. The Kashmir sapphire market has exploded over the years because there is nothing coming out of those mines anymore. The American Gemological Laboratories (AGL) described the sapphire as “a gem of singular importance.” According to Hubbard, the sapphire is a once-in-a-generation stone. “When I saw the sapphire with its exceptional color and quality, I took it and knew it would sell for a record price,” adds Schuler. Proceeds from the sale of the sapphire will benefit an unnamed charitable foundation.

Color is Center Stage
   While diamonds are assured of their position as a number-one choice for consumers, the colored stone market is having a moment in the auction spotlight. The El Dorado Emerald was another headliner of this sale. Taking the number-three position in the top ten, this 36.53-carat Colombian emerald sold for $2,165,000 to an Asian private collector who was bidding on the phone. There was lots of interest in the El Dorado and bidding quickly sailed up to $1.7 million before the final bidder jumped in and decisively won the stone.
   “Colored stones are big news. There is a good market for color. People have been focused on diamonds for a long time, but diamonds are predictable — they are codified and quantified and that’s fine. The market will always be there. Color is less predictable. You cannot classify color,” comments Hubbard. “Everybody who looks at a sapphire, emerald or ruby looks at something different — the mine the stone is from, color, cut. The action in the auction room is on color. It is hard to predict what will happen and that makes it fun. The trade is strong on color and will stretch beyond what they will do for diamonds.”

Hollywood Glamour
   A highlight of the sale was a collection of 20 jewels from the estate of entertainer Eydie Gorme. Along with husband Steve Lawrence, Gorme was a star who shined brightly on television and Broadway. Beloved as a singer, Gorme delighted audiences with her interpretations of the Great American Songbook. The collection, which sold for a total of $2.2 million, offered a few large diamonds in various shapes, including a 15.44-carat pear shape that the couple nicknamed “The Enterprise.” “As a kid, Eydie dreamed of having diamonds in all shapes. Everything she wore she enjoyed her whole life. She had very classic pieces that were given to her with much love,” Judy Tanner, personal assistant to Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme for 56 years, said immediately following the sale.
   “This sale had something for everybody — good jewelry, big diamonds and great color. Diamonds have leveled off, colored stones are soaring and we had a few that were priced right. We had good signed jewels and some very stylish unsigned jewels,” concludes Hubbard.
   *All prices include buyer’s premium.

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - June 2014. To subscribe click here.

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