Rapaport Magazine

Another Blockbuster

The Hong Kong market continues to thrive, as proved at Christie’s auction.

By Ettagale Blauer

The Star of China, a 75.36-carat briolette diamond pendant necklace, sold for $11,151,245.
The briolette surely is the most difficult diamond cut of all to fashion. Without a table or girdle to guide the cutter, he must find a way to create symmetry all over — in the round, up and down, point to point. All of that plus D, IF clarity creates a gem to fight over and that is exactly what transpired at Christie’s May 28, 2013, Hong Kong Magnificent Jewels sale. The briolette, weighing 75.36 carats, was sold for $11,151,245*, after “intense competition,” as described by Vickie Sek, jewelry and jadeite department head for Christie’s Asia. “There were two serious telephone bidders,” she says. “The whole room was holding its breath while the fierce bidding ensued.” The buyer, Tiffany Chen, named it The Star of China after her company, China Star Entertainment.
   Billed as the largest briolette ever graded by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), it was noted that the type IIa diamond had been cut from a briolette weighing 75.51 carats. The cutter shaved off just 15 points, enough to remove scratches but not enough to change the overall perfection of the faceting.
   While the briolette led the $82,947,664 sale, it was just one in a brilliant lineup of gems and jewels. The cover lot, a luxurious diamond necklace by Boucheron, suspending very large emerald drops, soared over the high estimate and fetched $5,712,245. Two private bidders in the room competed against several telephone bidders, says Sek. “After a stretched-out fight, finally it went to the telephone bidder.” The 292-lot sale was 81 percent sold by lot and 85 percent sold by value.
   It’s always satisfying when the final lot of a sale is a solid success. Such was the case with a stunning pair of Burmese ruby and diamond chandelier ear pendants by Etcetera that were sold for $3,899,245, third-highest price of the sale. Hong Kong–based Etcetera was founded in 2000 by Edmond Chin, formerly of Christie’s Hong Kong jewelry department.

Jade Connection
   All but one of the top ten lots were purchased by Asian privates, who continue to show they are highly discerning customers. Among the top lots was a jadeite and diamond ring by Anna Hu that knitted together the East and West in a single piece of jewelry. Hu, a Taiwanese-born jeweler, has embarked on a vigorous campaign to create a place for herself in the world of designer jewelry. An exquisitely photographed book of her first 99 designs — entitled Symphony of Jewels: Anna Hu, Opus 1 — was published in 2012. The ring in this auction, set with an oval jadeite cabochon, sitting in a diamond pavé-set surround high above the pavé-set diamond shank, sold for $2,593,885, more than three times the high estimate, after a ten-way bidding war.
   Jadeite has always been an important part of the Hong Kong sales, catering to the Asian enthusiasm for the precious green stone. However, Sek says, “It’s difficult to balance the Western-style jewelry and jadeite jewelry because the source for jadeite is very limited.” Very little of the jadeite already in Chinese collections reaches the market since, says Sek, “It’s passed along from the family’s treasure from generation to generation.”

The Next Generation
   Younger buyers, a highly desirable clientele for any auction house, are finding their way to Christie’s Hong Kong, thanks to designs by Hu and others that place fine jadeite in modern settings. An extremely unusual pair of ear pendants by Wallace Chan, centering on jadeite peapods set with white and yellow diamonds, lapis lazuli and tsavorite, exemplifies the trend. The pair was sold for $126,923.
   Natural pearls are making a comeback at auction. A double-strand necklace of 150 cream-colored natural pearls, graduating in size from 11.2 mm down to 5.0 mm, with a fine emerald and diamond clasp, sold for $2,448,845, just above the high estimate.
   Fine diamonds found willing buyers as well. A pair of D, IF round-cut diamonds weighing 6.43 carats and 6.23 carats, each suspended from an emerald-cut diamond to form a pair of ear pendants, was sold for $2,303,805, just under the high estimate.
   This sale was not as full of fancy color diamonds as previous events but it did feature a fancy vivid blue pear-shaped diamond pendant weighing 2.70 carats set by Tiffany & Co. in a necklace. The rounded pear shape was set within a fine frame edged with diamonds, suspended on a white gold chain from a round green diamond and a white marquise-shaped diamond. The piece fetched $2,231,285, well above the high estimate.
   Colored gemstones were standouts in this sale, including a stunning cushion-shaped Burmese sapphire weighing 44.53 carats, set on the diagonal and suspended from a neck chain comprising diamond-set fringes. The necklace, by Cartier, was sold for $2,811,445.
   Finding exquisite jewelry, whether signed or not, antique or newly made, is one of the most difficult challenges faced by auction house staff. Christie’s Hong Kong put together a remarkable collection of gems and jewels for this sale, as exemplified by a diamond tiara that could be taken apart and worn as a pair of brooches. The delicate, lightweight design, in the form of a pair of outstretched wings, was set throughout with old European–cut diamonds and mounted in platinum. At the viewing in New York, Sek described it as a wedding tiara, something for the bride to wear on her special day. The tiara was sold for $128,142.
   Sourcing can only increase in difficulty as more and more affluent clients learn the ropes. Sek notes, “There are more and more buyers from Mainland China, as they are getting more accustomed to buying at auction. Whether they are in the market for diamonds, colored gems or signed jewelry, Sek concludes, “our clients have been very selective,” in particular, she adds, when seeking “Burmese rubies and sapphires, Kashmir sapphires and Colombian emeralds. These have to be of gem-grade quality for beauty and investment purposes.” Buyers were certainly satisfied in those desires by the offerings in this sale.
*All prices include buyer’s premium.

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

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