Rapaport Magazine

New Heights Reached

Sotheby’s and Christie’s auctions in Genevaset eight new record prices.

By Francesco Rosa
After an exceptional year for jewelry sales in 2012, during which time multiple world auction records were set by both Sotheby’s and Christie’s, many wondered if 2013 would bring more surprises or if the industry had reached a plateau. 
   The first signals that the high bidding would continue came from the April sales of Magnificent Jewels in New York.
So it is perhaps not surprising that the Geneva spring sales confirmed across the board the great health of the international jewelry auction market.
   Within two days, Sotheby’s and Christie’s combined sold in excess of $180 million worth of fine jewelry and gemstones. Eight new world auction records were set, some of them twice, as in the case of the world auction record price for a pair of pearl ear pendants.
   The very busy viewing days leading up to the sales saw a great number of international dealers and private buyers dividing their time between Sotheby’s Beau-Rivage headquarters and Christie’s glamourous showrooms at the Four Season Hotel des Bergues.

   The unquestioned star lot was a 101.73-carat pear-shaped diamond offered by Christie’s. Mined in De Beers Jwaneng mine, it was the largest D flawless diamond ever to be offered for sale. The presale estimate for the stone was $20 million to $30 million.
   Sotheby’s mammoth 648-lot sale featured a jewelry collection belonging to Italian screen actress Gina Lollobrigida, as well as a collection of jewels designed by Suzanne Belperron for Cécyle Simon. Although perhaps lacking a superstar lot, the sale attracted a lot of attention from international trade and private collectors alike, thanks to conservative estimates and the great choice of jewelry at all price points.
   Christie’s presented a more compact sale of higher-ticket items, also very attractively priced. It featured numerous important diamond and colored gemstone pieces, as well as a selection of important natural pearl lots, three of which made the top ten list of the highest sellers.
   Commenting on the exceptional results achieved by natural pearls, Geneva-based dealer Giuseppe Torroni stated, “The natural pearl market in general has grown between 400 and 1,000 percent in the past ten years. But tonight’s results are exceptional even for such a trend. The Indian market, Bahrain, Qatar, and even the Chinese market now, have been driving up the prices for this beautiful gem, whose supply is extremely limited.”

Fancy yellow 74.53-carat center diamond surrounded by white diamonds sold for $2,926,454 at Sotheby’s.

   The first auction up was Sotheby’s, held on May 14, totaling $78,229,556 against a presale estimate of $49 million. The day-long sale saw 564 lots sold out of the 648 lots on offer, which represents 87 percent sold by lot and 91.9 percent sold by value. Six months ago, Sotheby’s autumn sale in Geneva totaled a slightly higher $81,092,327 but that sale included the exceptional 10.48-carat flawless fancy deep blue diamond briolette, which accounted for $10.9 million of the auction total.
   The top lot at Sotheby’s was a cushion modified brilliant-cut diamond of 27.90 carats, which the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) graded as D internally flawless, type IIa. It sold to an Asian private for $4,362,498*, or $156,362 per carat.
   A large array of quality gemstones and collectable signed jewelry were offered by Sotheby’s in all price categories, and a number of very active Asian dealers were present in the room throughout the day.
   The second-top lot was a late-nineteenth-century cushion-shaped, fancy yellow diamond and diamond jewel, the center stone weighing 74.53 carats. Formerly in the private collection of His Late Imperial Majesty Sultan Ahmed Shah Qajar, it sold to an anonymous buyer for $2,926,454, or $39,265 per carat, a world auction record price per carat for a fancy yellow diamond.
   A magnificent pair of natural pearl and diamond pendants, which belonged to international screen legend Gina Lollobrigida, also broke the world auction record for a pair of pearl ear pendants, selling for $2,343,830 to an anonymous buyer.
   David Bennett, chairman of Sotheby’s Switzerland and chairman of the jewelry department for Europe and the Middle East, commented: “Normally, you have a sale with several big-ticket items, like the blue briolette or the pink diamond, which account for quite a big proportion of the total. In this sale, there was really no single star lot that was going to hold the sale, but there was consistent quality in the jewels we put together and this met what the market was searching for.”

Pear-shaped 101.73-carat, D flawless diamond sold for $26,737,913 at Christie’s.

   High expectations were not disappointed the following afternoon at Christie’s when it sold a jaw-dropping $102,140,780 worth of jewelry and gems during its shorter two-session sale. Christie’s presale estimate was $70 million and a total of 298 lots went under the hammer, with 257 lots finding buyers. The sale was 86 percent sold by lot and 93 percent sold by value. Last November, Christie’s Geneva sale totaled $85,049,806.
   The 101.73-carat top lot broke the world auction record price for a colorless diamond, selling for $26,737,913, or $254,400 per carat, more than $10 million over the previous auction-price record for a diamond in its category.
   In a room charged with anticipation, François Curiel, the international head of Christie’s jewelry department, opened the bidding at $15 million and proceeded in increments of $500,000. Six people competed for this magnificent gem — five on the phone and a gentleman in the room. The buyer was jeweler Harry Winston, making its first major acquisition under new owner Swatch Group. The stone was quickly renamed “Winston Legacy.”
   After the sale, Rahul Kadakia, head of jewelry for Christie’s Americas and Switzerland, who was on the phone with the buyer and placed the winning bid on Winston’s behalf, stated, “Harry Winston acquired the most perfect diamond ever offered for sale at auction.”
   Incredibly, the second-top lot at Christie’s was also a record setter. The superb single-strand natural pearl necklace sold to an anonymous buyer for $8,457,945. Another record followed when a magnificent pair of drop-shaped natural pearl ear pendants broke the category record achieved the previous night at Sotheby’s when it sold for $2,441,175.
   A 19.88-carat cushion-shaped Kashmir sapphire sold for $3,483,017, or $175,202 per carat, setting a new world auction record per carat for a sapphire, while a fancy red, VS2 diamond of 1.92 carats sold for $1,633,000 per carat, setting a new world auction record price for a red diamond of $3,251,625.
   “World record prices were set for diamonds, pearls and sapphires, thereby firmly establishing the international appetite for the most beautiful gems and jewels,” summed up Kadakia.
* All prices include buyer’s premium*All prices include buyer’s premium.

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