Rapaport Magazine

New Auction Record for D Flawless

Sotheby’s celebrated its 40th anniversary in Asia with two new records at the Hong Kong Magnificent Jewels and Jadeite Autumn Sale.

By Mary Kavanagh

Cartier Peacock Brooch
We are thrilled to achieve a new world record for a white diamond at auction,” said Quek Chin Yeow, Sotheby’s deputy chairman, Asia, and chairman, international jewelry, Asia, following the Magnificent Jewels and Jadeite sale held on October 7, 2013. The diamond in question, dubbed The Magnificent Oval Diamond, is the largest white diamond ever to be sold at auction and the largest oval diamond ever to be graded by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). It is a 118.28-carat D Flawless stone that sold to an Asian private collector, bidding by phone, for $30.6 million*, beating the previous record for a white diamond sold at auction in Geneva earlier this year for $26.7 million. That diamond, a pear-shaped 101.73-carat D Flawless stone was named The Winston Legacy after the iconic New York City–based jeweler, Harry Winston, bought it at Christie’s in May.
   The 299-carat rough of The Magnificent Oval Diamond was discovered in 2011 in Southern Africa and was one of the largest and most beautiful rough diamonds to be found in recent years, according to a statement by Sotheby’s. It was transformed step-by-step by master cutters and polishers before being graded in August this year.
   The October auction also set a new record for the highest total for the sale of jewelry in Asia, bringing in $95,473,557. The 331-lot sale was sold 74.6 percent by lot and 68.8 percent by value. This compares to Sotheby’s Hong Kong sales in April 2013, which brought in a total of $61,444,776, and October 2012, which achieved $49,800,481.

The Premier Blue
   The other main attraction, the Premier Blue, failed to sell. Bidding for the 7.59-carat, Internally Flawless fancy vivid blue diamond — the world’s largest round, brilliant-cut blue diamond — stopped at $16 million, $3 million short of the target price of $19 million. “Of course, we are disappointed that the blue didn’t sell,” Quek said, pointing out that there will always be something that doesn’t sell. “Sometimes such stones sell for even more if they are put up for auction again,” he continued, saying that this has happened before. “The blue diamond market is quite select and even though this blue diamond did not meet the sale price, we at Sotheby’s in Hong Kong have been selling the most vivid blue diamonds in the world for the past ten years and we hold the record for price.”

Jadeite Delights
   Bidding was intense for many of the items and the top two jadeite lots proved very popular, in particular among Asian collectors. One of the lots, a striking double-strand jadeite necklace, each strand consisting of 127 emerald green beads, reportedly from the mines close to Hpakan in Myanmar, sparked competitive bidding. The necklace came from the private collection of an overseas Chinese family, who traded a mansion in Shanghai over 70 years ago to acquire this treasure. Quek said that the price “exceeded everyone’s expectations” when the necklace sold for $5,471,795. The estimated selling price was $2.8 million to $3.8 million.
   An unmounted brilliant-cut D-color Flawless diamond weighing 20.05 carats was also highly contested. It was sold to a private Asian buyer for $4,035,897, above the presale high estimate of $3.3 million.
   There was also a lot of interest in the diamonds from the estate of Ji Ing Soong, who married into a prominent Chinese family and later became a San Francisco arts patron. The estate’s 13.19-carat emerald-cut, fancy light pink diamond and diamond ring and a pair of diamond ear clips — both by Cartier — were highly sought after. The ring was estimated to sell for $600,000 to $800,000, but “we had to start at twice the estimate,” Quek said. “We had lots of bids for those pink diamonds,” and the selling price of $1,475,417 greatly exceeded expectations. The 8.03-carat cushion-shaped natural “pigeon’s blood” Burmese ruby ring designed by Asian jewelry designer Cindy Chao was bought by a private Asian collector for $3,820,513. Likewise, the one-of-a-kind Cartier ruby and diamond Peacock Brooch, from a royal private collection, far exceeded the estimated sale price of $400,000 to $500,000 and sold for $871,838. The peacock stands on a cushion-shaped ruby weighing 48.57 carats and the peacock’s plumage is set with brilliant-cut, marquise and pear-shaped diamonds and oval and pear-shaped rubies, altogether weighing a total of approximately 28 carats.
   Diamonds, rubies and jadeite figured strongly in the top lots sold. The auction was very well attended with all available seats taken and a large number of telephone bidders, not only from Asia, but from around the world. The result was competitive bidding for most items, with six or more bidders vying for ownership of the most attractive jewels. “I think the mood was quite exciting,” Quek said. The majority of bidders were private individuals and collectors, which is more common in Asia than in New York or Geneva, where you find more buyers from the trade. Participants present at auction included a diverse group in terms of nationality and age. A number of women in the audience were successful in their bidding, most likely making a jewelry purchase for their own use, according to Quek. There was little chitchat as people focused on getting their bids in and not missing an opportunity. The results list published by Sotheby’s after the sale showed that almost all of the buyers of the top lots were Asian privates.

A First for Hong Kong
   Hong Kong is gaining in importance as an auction center for large diamonds and is now one of the three global centers alongside Geneva and New York. “I think this sale alone will prove that we can sell major diamonds here in Hong Kong, particularly with the white, which has traditionally been sold in Geneva,” Quek said. Only four other white diamonds of this quality over 100 carats have ever been sold at auction — all of them in Geneva.
* All prices include buyer’s premium.

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

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