Rapaport Magazine


The December auctions in New York popped like a champagne cork.

By Amber Michelle
The weather outside was frigid, but things were heating up inside the salesrooms at Christie’s and Sotheby’s New York auctions. Active bidding at both houses made for long days and big totals.

Cartier Tutti Frutti bracelet
sold at Christie’s for $2,045,000.
   The excitement began at Christie’s in a three-session marathon sale that lasted well into the night, ringing up a total of $65,790,125. The presale estimate was $40 million to $60 million. The 495-lot sale was 86 percent sold by lot and 92 percent sold by value. This total compares to the October 2012 sale that pulled in $49,993,175 and the April 2013 auction that tallied up $81,358,700.
   The salesroom was bustling with activity and by the end of the morning session, the sale had already pulled in $17 million. The afternoon saw a calm, steady pace of bidding, with the room filling up as the day progressed and prices falling comfortably within the estimates. The evening sale was another story. It featured the headlining Leviev diamond jewelry and the 52.58-carat D Internally Flawless Golconda diamond that was the top-selling lot. It sold for $10,917,000,* or $207,600 per carat, to a buyer in the room who asked to remain anonymous. Altogether, 14 lots in the sale went over the million dollar mark. “Prices were very strong for colored gemstones and diamonds. Everyone is looking for beautiful stones,” commented Joseph Ambalu, Amba Gems, New York City.
   Bidding in the evening sale started off lightning fast for smaller lots that sold quickly and definitively. A bevy of dealers took up their usual posts in the back of the room, chattering away. However, even they were hushed a few times as bidders skirmished feverishly — sending prices into the stratosphere — for some prize jewels that will never be made again. Among those was an Art Nouveau gold, pearl and enamel brooch by René Lalique that was estimated at $20,000 to $30,000 and sold for $185,000. Another was an Art Deco rock crystal and diamond bangle by Cartier that was estimated at $25,000 to $35,000 and sold for $377,000. An Art Deco Cartier Tutti Frutti bracelet, estimated at $300,000 to $500,000, earned a place in the top ten when it sold for $2,045,000. According to Christie’s, this was a world-record price for an Art Deco Cartier Tutti Frutti bracelet. “These are mad prices that can only be achieved at auction. You never know what will happen,” stated Rahul Kadakia, head of jewelry for Christie’s Americas and Switzerland, at the end of the sale. He noted that Christie’s tallied up $193 million in jewelry sales in New York in 2013.

Cartier Egyptian Revival brooch
sold at Sotheby’s for $1,025,000.
   The next day at Sotheby’s, the electricity continued. This sale brought in $60,550,813 against a presale estimate of $41 million to $58 million. The 458-lot sale was sold 82.1 percent by lot and 83.2 percent by value. This compares to the December 2012 sale that achieved $64,765,013 and the April 2013 sale, which scored $53,490,938.
   Bidding was very aggressive, with multiple bidders sparring over numerous pieces, boosting prices well above the estimates and keeping the sale to a snail’s pace. Seventy percent of the lots were sold above their high estimates and 15 pieces sold for over $1 million. The top lot of the sale was a 61.35-carat Colombian emerald ring that sold to an anonymous buyer for $4,645,000 against a presale estimate of $1 million to $1.5 million. There was lots of interest in the ring, which was in a beautiful diamond mounting and had been in a private collection for decades. The bidding came down to two phone bidders who stubbornly refused to give up on the prize.
   While diamonds fared well in the sale, the big interest was in the signed jewelry. There was grumbling among the dealers in the room as they were frequently getting outbid. Particularly significant at this sale were five Egyptian Revival jewels by Cartier. The pieces centered on ancient artifacts and were adorned with jewels by Cartier in the 1920s when everyone was stricken with Egyptmania after the discovery of King Tut’s tomb. Bidding was intense for these pieces with collectors and industry insiders competing vigorously in the room. Those five pieces accounted for $2.3 million of the sale total.
   “Buyers are becoming more and more sophisticated,” said Lisa Hubbard, chairman, North and South America, Sotheby’s International Jewelry Division. “With JAR at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Bulgari exhibit in San Francisco, Cartier at the Palace Royale in Paris and other jewelry exhibitions, people are seeing jewelry as art. People are paying art prices. Jewelry is not just fashion anymore. These are the paintings of the jewelry world that will go up in value over time.”
   Hubbard went on to explain the auction phenomenon by pointing out that new people are coming into the market every day, all clamoring for the same things. It is supply and demand, she notes, “the farther away from an era we get, the harder it is to get those pieces.”
   One dealer who regularly attends the auctions summed up the sales succinctly: “The auctions are getting fancy prices.”
*All prices include buyer’s premium.

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - January 2014. To subscribe click here.

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