Rapaport Magazine

Shooting For The Stars

Heavy bidding for exceptional gems garnered top prices at Christie’s Hong Kong auction.

By Liana Cafolla

One of a pair of diamond bangle bracelets by Bhagat that sold for $546,192.
With the top ten lots all selling for well in excess of $1 million, Christie’s spring sale of Hong Kong Magnificent Jewels proved once again the enthusiasm of Asian buyers. The lively and well-attended auction, held on May 29 in the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre, lasted for about six hours on the next to the last day of Christie’s five-day spring auctions. The adjacent rooms of the convention center were buzzing with visitors to the house’s art, calligraphy and watches exhibitions. The total for the wide range of goods auctioned over the five days was $351.7 million.

The Magnificent Jewels sale sold 79 percent by lot, with 236 lots sold out of 300 lots offered, and 82 percent by value, for a total of $80,258,468. Most of the bidding came through the telephones, but there also were many bids from the largely Asian crowd present in the room.

Highlights of the auction were a pink diamond and a red ruby. “The jewelry market in Asia remains strong, with The Martian Pink, a 12.04-carat fancy intense pink diamond mounted by Harry Winston, achieving a staggering $17,395,728* after a worldwide exhibition tour in spring 2012,” said Vickie Sek, head of Christie’s Asia jewelry department. “Top-quality gemstones, such as sapphires, rubies and emeralds, as well as natural pearls, are also increasingly sought after by our clients, particularly private collectors in Asia.” Sek added that the auction achieved “top prices across the board,” including a world record price of $551,000 per carat for what she called “a perfect Burmese ruby.”


As expected, the top lot was The Martian Pink, which sold to an anonymous telephone buyer, following a rapid rise in bids that had the audience gasping in amazement. The largest round fancy intense pink diamond ever to appear at auction, the stone was previously the property of a prominent private collector, and was named by Ronald Winston in honor of the United States’ first satellite mission to Mars, the red planet, in 1976, the year the stone was first sold.

Presale estimates for the rare VS1, type IIa stone were $8 million to $12 million, but the bidding soon surpassed expectations. Starting at $6,440,000, it rose quickly in increments of approximately $100,000. After reaching a pregnant pause at around $15 million, the sense of drama in the room increased as two bidders on the telephones briskly escalated their offers in an attempt to outbid each other, until, finally, one succeeded.


The record-setting 6.04-carat Burmese ruby and diamond ring by Etcetera, a Hong Kong-based brand founded by the former head of Christie’s Hong Kong jewelry department, had a presale estimate of $2.5 million to $3.8 million. The oval-shaped ruby’s well-saturated “pigeon’s blood red” color and the lack of any thermal enhancement assured wide interest in the stone, which was set in a cushion-shaped diamond petal surround and mounted in 18-karat white gold.

Bids for the ring, which was the last lot of the auction, rose slowly but steadily before a rapt audience to reach a sale price of $3,330,768. The buyer, a young female Asian private, left the room smiling happily.

The next-to-last lot of the sale was a ruby and diamond necklace with 52 Burmese rubies — also with pigeon’s blood red color — set in diamond surrounds. It attracted fast-paced bidding by several buyers on the telephone and one in the room before finally selling for $1,390,071.


White diamonds attracted rapid bidding, including the second top lot of the day, a pair of unmounted brilliant-cut D flawless, type IIa diamonds, each weighing exactly 10.88 carats. They sold to an Asian private for $4,845,456. A trio of rings also achieved million-dollar-plus prices. A large diamond ring by JAR featured an oval-shaped DIF diamond of approximately 10.67 carats flanked by two pear-shaped DIF diamonds of approximately 6.07 and 6.04 carats.It sold to an Asian buyer bidding on the telephone for $2,970,128. A Harry Winston diamond ring with a brilliant-cut, 11.85-carat diamond sold for $1,960,336, just over the presale low estimate. Rounding out the high-selling rings was an 18.18-carat rectangular diamond ring, which brought in $1,361,079.

Other headliners were a diamond riviere necklace of 109.26 carats that went to an Asian private buyer for $2,046,890 and a pendant featuring a pear-shaped 14.37-carat diamond mounted in platinum that sold for $1,960,336, also to an Asian private buyer.

Plenty of variety was seen in the hues of the colored diamond offerings. Highlights included a fancy vivid yellow VVS1 diamond weighing 10.81 carats, which went for $1,383,312. A fancy brown-yellow diamond of 40.94 carats sold for $1,527,568 and an intense pink 3.11-carat diamond sold to an Asian private buyer for $2,032,464.


A series of rings set with colored gemstones — often paired with diamonds — attracted enthusiastic bidding. A ring featuring a rectangular-shaped diamond of approximately 9.04 carats paired with a rectangular-shaped natural Colombian 7.05-carat emerald sold for $1,089,795 after heated telephone bidding. Another ring by Etcetera, this one with a cushion-shaped 11.10-carat Kashmir sapphire set in a circular diamond surround, sold for $1,390,071 to a buyer in the room.


As usual at the Hong Kong sales, jade pieces were popular, particularly jade and diamond items. Rings saw healthy bidding, especially a round emerald-green jadeite double cabochon and diamond ring, which sold for $748,101. An oval jadeite cabochon ring with half-moon diamond shoulders and diamond gallery went for $328,750. High prices were also achieved for jadeite necklaces, with a diamond necklace set with 17 oval jadeite cabochons fetching $934,480. A jadeite and diamond ring and pendant earring set mounted in 18-karat white gold sold for $468,534 .

Other unusual pieces also sold well, such as a 15.58-carat alexandrite — with strong color-change properties — set in an oval-shaped diamond surround, which sold for $934,480. A pair of natural Burmese sapphires of 9.69 carats and 8.95 carats, suspended from 1.51-carat and 1.50-carat diamonds in a pair of ear clips by Cartier sold for $592,786. An intricately constructed pair of diamond bracelets by Bhagat (pictured at right), set with a row of brilliant cuts, a row of pear shapes and a row of baguettes, sold for $546,192.

Sek said the sale went well for a number of reasons. “First, our specialists put together an expertly curated sale, with an eye toward beautiful and high-quality jewels. Second, we were able to source exceedingly rare items, such as The Martian Pink and the superb Burmese ruby — which both trade and collectors are willing to compete for. Third, the property was priced attractively and in line with the market. To find the right goods for the right market is very important. Finally, with the current volatility in the stock markets, there is the element of certain investors wanting to put their funds in jewels.

*All prices include buyer’s premium.

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - July 2012. To subscribe click here.

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