Rapaport Magazine

Diamond Thirst Unquenchable

Sotheby’s Scores $31 million at Hong Kong Sale.

By Ettagale Blauer
RAPAPORT... The strength of the Hong Kong appetite for fine, expensive jewelry was proven once again at Sotheby’s April 10 sale in which the firm sold $31,618,600 worth of diamonds, diamond jewelry, colored stone jewelry and jadeite. Although the sale was only 60 percent sold by lot and 69 percent sold by value, it saw some stunning successes. The importance of jadeite in the Chinese culture cannot be overstated. A Hong Kong buyer triumphed in very competitive bidding to secure the top lot, a 39-bead jadeite necklace with diamond bead spacers. The necklace, completed with a diamond-set clasp, was sold for $3,390,400.*


Auspicious only begins to describe a pair of unmounted round diamonds. In addition to reaching the perfect ratings of “D” flawless, with highest ratings for polish and symmetry, each was cut to a weight of exactly 8.88 carats. Eight is the most desirable number in China, especially among the Cantonese-speaking population. According to the catalog description, the Cantonese phonetic equivalent for the number eight equates to luck, fortune and wealth. The pairing of two such stones magnifies and amplifies these qualities to an unprecedented degree. This lot sold near the high estimate for $1,861,600 to a Hong Kong private.

The estimate for the two diamonds, as well as the other top ten lots, was right on target, a testament to Quek Chin Yeow, Sotheby Asia’s head of jewelry. Nine of the top ten lots were sold within the estimates.

Quek noted that the market for ultraluxury products remains “vibrant and dynamic and the immense wealth created in Asia, particularly in the past few years, has translated to great buying power among the Asian elite.” Asian private buyers bought virtually all of the top lots. The enthusiasm in Hong Kong for extremely fine diamonds remains unquenched. A 5.02-carat, radiant-cut, fancy intense blue VS2 diamond, set in a ring surrounded by round pink diamonds, was sold for $2,444,000. Another radiant-cut fancy, this one a cotton candy pink weighing 11.03 carats, likewise set within a frame of round diamonds of purplish pink hue, was sold for $2,007,200.

Colored diamonds of various hues were combined in a pair of long diamond earrings by Bulgari. Each was set with a vivid yellow diamond at the top, suspending pink and blue diamonds alternating with white diamonds, ending in pear-shaped diamonds weighing 7.08 and 7.00 carats. The pair, mounted in 18-karat white gold, was sold for $1,206,400.

The taste for “D” flawless diamonds continues with the sale of an unmounted diamond weighing 17.97 carats. The pear-shaped, nicely proportioned stone was sold to an Asian private for $1,497,600.

A pair of ruby and diamond ear pendants took the second-highest price in the sale, an indication that Hong Kong customers are willing to pay high prices for fine and rare colored gemstones. This pair was set with cushion-cut stones, each weighing exactly 7.01 carats, surmounted by oval rubies, weighing 2.04 and 2.05 carats. The rubies were each encircled by round diamonds. The four rubies were certified by Gübelin Gem Lab as being of Burmese origin with no indication of heating. This remarkable pair was sold for $2,444,000.

A less exalted but charming ruby and diamond piece sold well. The lot, designed as a tapering collar of mesh design, was casually set with variously shaped rubies, as well as fancy shaped and brilliant cut diamonds, with five pear-shaped diamonds suspended from points along the bottom edge. It held a total of 171.80 carats of rubies and 23.40 carats of diamonds and was sold for $65,520, just above the presale estimate.


The softness in the sale was evidenced by the failure of the more moderately priced jewelry, both Western and jadeite, to find customers. According to Quek, buyers of such jewelry were “more price-sensitive and more selective in terms of design. Anything that was a little traditional or boring was passed over, even when prices were fair market and attractive. The same was true for jadeite jewelry. The focus for diamonds was generally on the top end or bigger stones. So, buyers of smaller diamonds of high quality were more price-sensitive, very much in line with the trend of Rapaport prices of these smaller sizes of late.”

Buyers showed great selectivity, passing up a major brand name when they were not interested in the design. A Graff necklace set with two intertwined lines of diamonds, one all round, the other baguettes, accented with a fancy yellow 8.21-carat diamond, failed to sell. The necklace had a very 1950s look about it and may have done better in a European or American sale.

The top ten lots also included a charming jadeite peapod-shaped pendant set with a 1.23-carat, pear-shaped diamond. The lot was sold for $842,400 to a Hong Kong private. The choice of a vegetable is very much in keeping with the symbolism of fruits, vegetables and flowers in the Chinese culture. These reflect the auspicious quality of the planting and harvesting seasons. The pea-pod motif is said to “celebrate Asian womanhood and nature.”

East met West in a delightful pair of jadeite and diamond earrings. Each was set with interlocking jadeite double hoops of translucent emerald green, accented with a diamond-set hoop suspended from a trilliant and princess-cut diamond. The combination of the traditional jadeite with the modern-cut diamonds made for an unusual design. The pair was sold for $740,480 to an Asian private, just above the high estimate, the only one of the top ten lots to surpass its high estimate. This pair of earrings perfectly sums up the auction house’s ability to create or nurture a market with special tastes and a willingness to accept new designs while holding fast to its own cultural heritage.

* All prices include buyer’s premium.

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - May 2007. To subscribe click here.

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