Rapaport Magazine

Record-Setting Week

Ten new records were set during the Geneva auctions.

By Francesco Rosa
The shattering of ten world jewelry auction records at the spring sales of Magnificent Jewels in Geneva sent a strong and reassuring signal that confirmed the extraordinary and robust health of the high-end jewelry and diamond market. New records were set for jewelry auction totals, as well as for prices per carat and prices per stone, for a wide range of white and colored diamonds.
   During two heart-stopping days in mid-May, Sotheby’s and Christie’s challenged each other like elegant eighteenth-century nobles, hammering down record after record. At the close of the first auction day, May 13, Sotheby’s had achieved the highest total ever for a jewelry sale in auction history, a record previously set by the Elizabeth Taylor sale held at Christie’s New York in December 2011. But it was only a matter of hours before Christie’s regained the title in a sale headlined by The Winston Blue, the largest flawless vivid blue diamond in the world.
   Following the day’s events, an upbeat Rahul Kadakia, recently promoted to international head of Christie’s jewelry department, said, “Geneva is really a flagship jewelry center; it always was. This is the week everyone wants to witness, everybody wants to be here, everybody wants to sell here, everybody wants to buy here. It has become that one big jewelry convention that takes place twice a year in Geneva, and you have to be here, whether you buy or not. You have to get to Geneva to get a pulse of what is really going on in the market.”
   The days leading up to the two sales stood out, according to several seasoned trade members, as some of the busiest and most internationally attended auction viewings in memory. “It was completely packed,” commented David Bennett, chairman of Sotheby’s Switzerland and chairman of its jewelry department for Europe and the Middle East, “and the number of dealers from all over the world — a lot of them from Asia and India, as well as the usual notable dealers from London, New York and Hong Kong — was quite incredible.”

The Graff Vivid Yellow.
Photo courtesy Sotheby’s.

   With a presale estimate of $92 million to $140 million, Sotheby’s delighted dealers worldwide by offering a sale of 513 lots, 455 of which were sold, with well over 90 percent of goods coming from privates. The sale achieved an astonishing $141,492,079 total and was 88.7 percent sold by lot and 91.8 percent sold by value. It set a new world record for a jewelry auction, albeit one that only held until Christie’s totals came in the next day.
   Buyers from more than 30 countries — in the room, online and on the phone — competed aggressively throughout the three sessions of the sale. The top lot of the evening was The Graff Vivid Yellow, a sensational and rare 100.09-carat VS2 cushion-shaped fancy vivid yellow diamond ring. After some dramatic confusion about currency conversions, it eventually sold, when the bidding was reopened after a brief interruption. It sold to an anonymous private client who was present in the room for $16,347,847*, setting two new world auction records — for a yellow diamond and for a jewel by Graff. The diamond was cut for Safdico in New York by the late Antonio Bianco, universally recognized as one of the master diamond cutters of our time.
   Bennett added that “100 carats is a magical number when it comes to diamonds. With its exceptional size and a superb daffodil color, The Graff Vivid Yellow is a truly extraordinary diamond with immense presence. These rare qualities led to the record price achieved tonight.”
   Three other world jewelry auction records also fell. A new record price per carat for a round colorless diamond was achieved by the sale of a 25.32-carat D, IF brilliant-cut diamond graded by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) as type IIa with excellent polish, cut and symmetry. The stone sold for $6,246,702, or $246,710 per carat.
   British jeweler David Morris purchased a marquise-shaped 12.07-carat IF fancy pink diamond ring for $7,256,816, establishing a new world auction record for price per carat for a fancy pink at $601,228. The next auction record — for price per carat for a fancy light pink diamond — was set with a 10.11-carat VS2 brilliant-cut diamond that sold for $3,973,944, or $393,071 per carat.

   “Throughout the day, we witnessed intense bidding from all corners of the globe for exceptional diamonds, gemstones and signed jewels,” said Bennett. “Once again, fine pieces with important provenance were highly sought after. We were particularly pleased by the excitement surrounding Suzanne Belperron’s creations, which further confirms her reputation as one of the greatest jewelry designers of the twentieth century.”

The Winston Blue. Photo courtesy Christie’s Images Ltd. 2014.

   By the close of the following auction day, May 14, Christie’s had regained the world record for the highest total ever for a jewelry auction by selling a jaw-dropping $154,193,622. Christie’s sale comprised a smaller number of 256 lots on offer, half as many as Sotheby’s, but with a higher average estimate.
   Jeweler Harry Winston bought the top lot of the evening, a pear-shaped blue diamond of 13.22 carats that, according to the GIA, is the largest flawless fancy vivid blue diamond in the world. It sold for a staggering $23,795,372, which, at $1,799,953 per carat, is a new world auction record price per carat for a blue diamond. Nayla Hayek, Harry Winston’s chief executive officer (CEO), named the diamond The Winston Blue.
   A cut-cornered square-cut light pink VVS1 diamond necklace of 76.51 carats, by Leviev, established a new world auction record price for a light pink diamond, selling for $10,000,825, or $130,712 per carat. The Ocean Dream, a triangular-cut fancy vivid blue-green SI1 diamond of 5.50 carats sold to an Asian private for $8,633,798, or $1,414,727 per carat, a new world auction record price for a blue-green diamond.
   Helen Molesworth, managing director of Gübelin Academy and a former jewelry expert for Sotheby’s and Christie’s who attended both auctions, summed up the events. “The Geneva auctions exposed a market showing astounding strength across all categories, with numerous prices blowing recent world records out of the water. Sotheby’s set world records with The Graff Yellow and for a fancy light pink, after which Christie’s stole the show with more unusual colors, setting records for a huge light pink and a remarkable blue-green diamond, and, of course, the exceptional Winston Blue. Personally, I think this is an indication of a more discerning and learned market. Higher prices for more unusual stones is for me a sign of recognition of previously undervalued areas of rarity, and an increase in the subtle appreciation of true rarities of nature.”
   *All prices include buyer’s premium.

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

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