Rapaport Magazine
Auctions

When Only the Best Will Do

Modern brides favor vintage styles.

By Ettagale Blauer
 
A 3.04-carat, heart-shaped fancy intense blue diamond set in a ring surrounded by pink diamonds sold for $2,158,974.
Imagine a room filled with well-heeled clients from all over Asia. Now picture them bidding vigorously for lots over $1 million, even engaged in bidding battles for multimillion-dollar jewels. No need to imagine — that was the scene at Sotheby’s Hong Kong April 8 sale, which fetched $61,444,776. Though the sale was only 78.6 percent sold by lot and 77.4 percent sold by value, it brought out the big spenders, eager to snatch up extremely fine white diamonds and signed jewelry in particular.
   While the Hong Kong sales once offered a balance of jadeite and Western-style jewelry, the scale has shifted to more Western jewels, with the emphasis on important diamonds and colored gemstones. Private clients, nearly all Asian, picked up eight of the top ten lots, leading off with the 28.86-carat round D flawless diamond, which brought $6,907,692*, well above the presale high estimate. Once again, the Asian appetite for the best of the best saw solid prices for diamonds of the finest color and clarity.
   Quek Chin Yeow, head of the jewelry department for Sotheby’s Asia, said, “There was strong participation from clients from all over Asia: Hong Kong as well as China, Indonesia, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand.” While most of the bidding for the top ten lots was on the phone, as is usual with high-ticket items, he added, “Several of the clients were bidding in person in the sale room for these lots.” The auction was busy, says Quek, “with about 200 people attending the sale.”

Turnaround in Attitude
   The remarkable achievements of the Asian auction market have marked a turnaround in clients’ core beliefs. Not so long ago, auction house personnel had to explain that at these auctions, prices always go up; in the usual arena of bargaining or negotiating for goods, one expects prices to come down. But when an infinite number of buyers are competing for a finite number of rare gems and jewels, the sums can only go up.
   Competition was “lively,” according to Quek, “even for a good number of the big lots over $1 million.” The remarkably identical pair of 8-carat round D, IF diamond pendant earrings was sold for a shade under the top estimate, at $2,815,385. The number eight is prized in Chinese cultures and to have two stones, each cut to precisely the same weight, with no little points hanging on, was sure to enchant bidders.
   Among the other top white diamond lots was a 21.54-carat round F, IF diamond set in a ring that sold over the high estimate for $2,671,795. The Forevermark, indicating a diamond that met De Beers new standard for clean sourcing, didn’t seem to do much for a pair of D flawless diamond earrings with nearly identical weights of 5.76 carats and 5.70 carats. The diamond solitaires sold above the low estimate for $1,697,436.
   The identical price of $1,697,436 was paid for an antique diamond pendant necklace set with two large cushion-shaped diamonds weighing 26.12 carats and 23.86 carats. Although the circa 1910 necklace was unsigned and had no maker’s marks, the maker was likely Chaumet, backed up by a letter from the firm to Sotheby’s. It adds that the two magnificent diamonds likely were “adapted to the Chaumet negligee necklace” in 1936. The royal Romanian provenance, described in the catalog, was also confirmed by Chaumet.
   Back-up information from the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) was used to describe a 10.27-carat old mine brilliant-cut D, IF diamond set in a ring. The beautiful diamond has elongated facets in its midsection and to the eye, appears to be a squared oval or antique cushion, anything but round. It was sold above the high estimate for $1,574,359.

Green Appeal
   Green is the color of spring and two very different green lots found Asian buyers. A ring set with a 19.54-carat cushion-shaped emerald described as Colombian soared past the high estimate and sold for $1,928,205. The SSEF report described the color as “well saturated” and noted “an attractive purity and cutting style.” The origin was determined by microscopic examination that ”revealed few inclusions, which represent the hallmarks of Colombian emeralds from the famous mining areas Muzo, Coscuez and Chivor.”
   The traditional Asian appreciation for jadeite was represented in the second green lot in the top ten. A simple jadeite cabochon and diamond ring with earclips, in matching color and translucency, was sold just over the low estimate for $1,620,513. The jadeites were certified by the Hong Kong Jade & Stone Laboratory as natural and grade A.
   Fancy color diamonds were somewhat less prominent in this sale, but a 3.04-carat, heart-shaped fancy intense blue diamond made it into the top ten. The VS1-clarity stone was set in a ring surrounded by pink diamonds, the shank set with white and pink diamonds. The ring captured the heart of an Asian private who bid it up to $2,158,974, over the low estimate. It must have gladdened the heart of the auctioneer as well, since it followed a pair of fancy pink diamond earrings that were estimated to bring $1,900,000 to $2,300,000 but failed to sell.
   Unfortunately, the final lot of the sale and the one that was meant to put a glowing end to the event, failed to find a buyer. The natural gray saltwater pearl and diamond necklace, featured on the cover of the catalog, seemed an odd choice for an audience with impeccable taste and very high expectations. The visibly scratched pearls in the necklace clearly showed more than a half century of wear since the piece was created by Van Cleef & Arpels in 1956. Oddly, the catalog made no mention of their color.
   Sotheby’s did considerably better with the back cover lot, also by Van Cleef & Arpels. The classic ballerina brooch, circa 1960, comprising a full-length tutu made of calibré-cut blue chalcedony, dotted with sapphires and round diamonds, was sold for $147,347, nearly three times the high estimate. The small size and delicacy of the design, as well as the unusual blue color, made this a very desirable lot.
   A remarkable collection of 29 fancy color heart-shaped diamonds, with a total weight of 22.89 carats, all with GIA certificates, sold just over the high estimate for $654,304. The heart shapes were framed and separated by round white diamonds with a total weight of 6.20 carats. The colors ranged from fancy yellow to fancy pink. The largest stone, 2.69 carats, was light orangy pink. Sizes ranged from that center diamond down to a .24-carat fancy pink. In between were grayish yellowish green, intense yellow and even intense yellow-orange, a veritable cornucopia of fancy color diamonds, and all matching in shape. While this may have been a dealer’s lot, since it was not signed, it showed a remarkable sense of color choices and the patience to wait for the right stones to fill out the palette.
*All prices include buyer’s premium.

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - May 2013. To subscribe click here.

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