Rapaport Magazine

Reaching New Highs

Past records were shattered and new ones set at Christie’s and Sotheby’s autumn jewelry sales in Geneva.

By Francesco Rosa
   The 2012 autumn sales in Geneva will be remembered by many for the historical
offering of The Archduke Joseph Diamond, a 76.02-carat cushion-shaped D color, internally flawless Golconda diamond sold at Christie’s, and for the flawless fancy deep blue diamond briolette of over 10 carats auctioned at Sotheby’s. Both lots broke multiple world auction records. Trade and jewelry connoisseurs alike, however, will also remember these sales for the large number of extremely fine-quality colored stones and for the strong prices they fetched, as well as for the exceptional prices recorded by natural pearls and collectable jewels.

   The days leading up to the sales saw very busy viewing sessions, with private clients mainly attending during the weekend and dealers from all over the world carefully assessing the lots on offer. From the start, it became clear that some lots would fetch exceptional prices. “This will make more than four times the low estimate,” Swiss gem dealer Charles Abouchar correctly predicted, referring to a large Ceylon sapphire set in an antique brooch, “and the rubies, more than six times the estimate,” he continued, another accurate forecast for a pair of Burmese ruby ear pendants by Bulgari. Dealers concurred that many colored stones had overly conservative presale estimates, which made for an even larger discrepancy between estimates and actual sales prices.

   The games opened November 13 at Christie’s, which achieved an astonishing $85,049,810 against a presale estimate of $67 million. The 348-lot sale was 84 percent sold by lot and 86 percent sold by value, with 292 lots finding a new home. By comparison, Christie’s May 2012 sale totaled $110,189,044, with 359 lots sold, while its November 2011 sale made $61,268,528 for 279 lots.
   Christie’s salesroom at Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues offered a glamourous stage, with all seats taken from early on in the sale. As always, a number of dealers presided over the back end of the room with tables of trade from New York, the Middle East and other international locations. Bidding was intense, coming from privates and dealers in the room, as well as over the phones and online.
   The top lot was the much anticipated Archduke Joseph Diamond, which sold to a phone bidder for $21,474,525* or $282,485 per carat, setting three new world auction records: for a colorless diamond, for a colorless Golconda diamond and for a per-carat price for a colorless diamond.
Asked about the identity of the buyer, François Curiel, international head of Christie’s jewelry department, stated with an enigmatic smile, “The buyer wishes to remain completely anonymous.” The underbidder was Fred Mouawad, son of legendary diamond dealer Robert Mouawad, also bidding on the phone. The seller was Alfredo J. Molina, chairman of Black, Starr & Frost.
   Speaking after the sale, Molina said, “My understanding is that this stone is going to a museum and it will probably be the centerpiece.” The Archduke Joseph Diamond “was first sold at auction at Christie’s Geneva in 1993 for $6.5 million — $10.1 million in today’s money — which represents a 113 percent increase over a 19-year period,” observed Rahul Kadakia, head of jewelry for Christie’s Americas and Switzerland.
   The second-top lot was a 3.33-carat shield-shaped fancy intense blue SI1 diamond brooch by Wartski, which sold for $2,467,645,or $741,000 per carat, and went to the European trade. Two other lots of the top ten sellers shattered all estimates: a pair of Burmese ruby ear pendants and an octagonal-cut Ceylon sapphire. The 7.94-carat and 7.22-carat earrings by Bulgari sold for $2,113,165, or $139,000 per carat. The spectacular 60.44-carat sapphire’s fairytale color and charming antique proportions set a new world auction record price for a Ceylon sapphire of $1,859,965, or $26,000 per carat.

   The following day, this sparkling mood continued uninterrupted at Sotheby’s
Beau-Rivage headquarters, with many of the same familiar faces quickly filling a slightly cozier salesroom. Deals and alliances were being struck throughout the sale by trade mingling in the adjacent hall. By the end of the day, Sotheby’s totaled $81,092,327 against a low presale estimate of $40 million, selling 521 lots out of the 589 on offer. Sotheby’s May 2012 sale had totaled $111,836,526 with 632 lots sold, while its November 2011 sale made $70,173,551 for 410 lots.

   The top lot was a flawless fancy deep blue diamond briolette of 10.48 carats, which sold for $10,860,146, or $1,036,273 per carat. It set two new world auction records: for price per carat for a deep blue diamond and for price of a briolette diamond. The heart-stopping telephone bid was met with excited applause in the room. It was later disclosed that London-based Laurence Graff bought the stone. Trade speculation that the stone might be recut to improve on the already exceptional color was left unanswered. Asked to comment on the rumors, Hoda Esphahani, president of Safdico USA Inc., stated, “It is an exceptional stone with a unique shape and tantalizing flashes of vivid blue…get me another briolette with that color!”
   The second-top lot of the night was a pair of cushion-shaped Burmese ruby pendant ear clips weighing 11.46 carats and 11.64 carats. They sold over the phone to an Asian private for $3,520,338, or $152,396 per carat.
   Leading a healthy market for collectable jewels was an extremely rare conch pearl, enamel and diamond bracelet made by Cartier in the late 1920s, formerly in the personal collection of Queen Victoria Eugenia of Spain. It achieved a new world auction record
for a conch pearl jewel, selling for $3,461,146 to a European collector. “The client already asked that we make sure the clasp is well secured,” said Daniela Mascetti, Sotheby’s
senior international jewelry specialist, implying that the buyer intends to enjoy wearing
her purchase. “This was truly one of the finest offerings of colored stones in 20 years,” commented David Bennett, chairman of Sotheby’s jewelry department in Europe and the Middle East. “It was a personal pleasure for me to witness the extraordinary result achieved for Queen Victoria Eugenia’s Cartier bracelet, not only one of the greatest of Cartier’s creations, but also, I believe, one of the most important jewels of the past century.”

* All prices include buyer’s premium.
Francesco Rosa is a jewelry designer whose work occasionally appears at auction.

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

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