Rapaport Magazine


Sotheby’s and Christie’s tallied up a combined total of $258 million for the two sales during auction week in Geneva.

By Francesco Rosa
Notwithstanding a climate of uncertainty leading up to the sales, the 2015 spring auctions of magnificent jewels in Geneva saw record prices for rubies, sapphires, natural pearls, signed and period jewels, as well as solid and reassuring results for a number of white and colored diamonds.

The Sunrise Ruby, a 25.59-carat Burmese ruby and diamond ring by Cartier, sold for a record $30,335,698 at Sotheby’s.
   Jewelry history was made at Sotheby’s Magnificent Jewels auction, which achieved a new highest-ever total for any jewelry auction at $160,914,902. The 484-lot sale was almost 94 percent sold by lot and set six new world auction records.
   “The total is $161 million; it is a new record for any jewelry auction,” said David Bennett, worldwide chairman of Sotheby’s jewelry department, after the historic auction in Geneva on May 12.
   “The whole sale went way beyond our expectations,” added Bennett. “The Sunrise Ruby made over three times more than the previous world record, which was for The Graff Ruby that we sold here last November. It was also three times the size, so it was a record not only for the sum of money — $30.3 million — but also a record price per carat. It becomes the most expensive gemstone ever sold at auction that is not a diamond.”
   Bidding from international private buyers and the trade was fierce, resulting in strong prices across the board. With a few notable exceptions, white and colored diamonds also registered stable prices, with four diamond-only lots making it into the top ten list.
   The unquestioned star of the evening was The Sunrise Ruby, a cushion-shaped Burmese ruby of 25.59 carats, mounted between shield-shaped diamonds on a ring by Cartier. It sold to an anonymous buyer for $30,335,698,* or $1,185,451 per carat, setting three new records: a world auction record for any ruby, a world auction record per carat for a ruby and a world auction record for a jewel by Cartier. “The Sunrise Ruby is a fantastic stone. I was completely mesmerized from the first moment I saw it — and, in a sense for me, it’s the stone of my 40-year career. It was just a magical stone,” Bennett told the press.
   The previous world auction record for any ruby, and for a ruby per carat, was held by The Graff Ruby, an 8.62-carat Burmese ruby and diamond ring, which sold at Sotheby’s Geneva in November 2014 for $8,600,410, or $997,727 per carat.
   The second top lot of the sale was The Historic Pink Diamond, an 8.72-carat cushion brilliant-cut fancy vivid pink VS2, type IIa diamond. It sold to an anonymous bidder seated in the center of the room for $15,903,422, or $1,823,787 per carat. Believed by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) to have once been part of the collection of Princess Mathilde of Bonaparte — the niece of Napoleon I — the exquisite diamond only recently resurfaced, having been kept in a bank vault since the 1940s.
   “I found it an absolutely beautiful stone,” noted Bennett after the sale, “but a stone for connoisseurs because it was cut in this old unmodified cushion shape, which is how diamonds were cut in the nineteenth century and earlier. It had this soft, feminine charm and a great history and provenance.”
   From the same outstanding private collection as The Sunrise Ruby, three more sensational modern jewels by Cartier ranked among the stand-out jewels of the sale, achieving on their own an outstanding $47,166,909.
   A sapphire and diamond brooch, also by Cartier, set with a cushion-shaped sapphire weighing 30.23 carats, sold for $6,161,637, setting a new world auction record price for a Kashmir sapphire. Finally, a pair of Cartier sapphire and diamond ear clips, each set with a step-cut Burmese sapphire, weighing 15.77 and 16.90 carats, respectively, sold to a European private for $3,425,518, setting a new world auction record price for a pair of Burmese sapphire earrings.
   Continuing the strong demand for natural pearls, an extremely rare natural double-strand pearl and diamond necklace sold to the international trade for $7,003,519, registering a new world auction record for a two-row natural pearl necklace.
   “The galleries have been brimming with collectors during our worldwide exhibitions and this translated into lively bidding throughout the sale tonight, with truly global demand for the finest diamonds, gemstones and signed pieces of the very highest order,” summed up Bennett the day after the sale.

5.18-carat fancy vivid pink diamond and diamond ring was the top lot at Christie’s, selling for $10,709,442.
   The following day at Christie’s, an exceptional sapphire and diamond ring set a new world auction record for a Kashmir sapphire, beating the record that had only just been set the previous day at Sotheby’s.
   The 35.09-carat cushion-shaped Kashmir sapphire sold to an Asian private on the phone for a record $7,357,999, or $209,689 per carat. It had previously sold at Christie’s New York on October 25, 2000, for $853,000 and was the third top-selling lot at Christie’s auction in Geneva, which totaled $97,515,535.
   “In 15 years, the stone made nine times its price,” commented Rahul Kadakia, international head of Christie’s jewelry department. “And yes, maybe there are other areas of investment where you could have had this sort of appreciation — real estate, maybe double, maybe three times; stocks, double or three times — but nine times the price? I mean talk about jewels as an investment of value.”
   The top lot of the evening was a rectangular-cut fancy vivid pink VS2 clarity diamond and diamond ring of 5.18 carats. It sold to an anonymous private buyer who placed the winning bid on the telephone, setting a price of $10,709,442, or $2,067,459 per carat.
   The second top lot was a 55.52-carat pear-shaped D color, flawless, type IIa diamond, which sold to an Asian private for $9,033,721, or $162,711 per carat.
   Two natural pearl lots and a Burmese ruby ring made the top ten list of highest-selling lots, continuing “the inexorable rise in demand for colored gemstones and natural pearls,” noted Kadakia.
   In a selective but internationally active market, conservatively estimated white diamonds of high quality achieved stable prices, with four white diamond lots making the top ten list.
   Kirsten Everts, an active bidder during auction week and jewelry specialist and valuer at Gurr Johns, international fine art and jewelry advisers, summed up the events. “Blue-chip items such as exceptional colored stones and natural pearls, certain signatures and out-of-the-ordinary diamonds proved once again to be the most popular. The exceptional, marvelous and rare are being considered as a safe investment without shyness by both trade and international private buyers.”
*All prices include buyer’s premium.

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - June 2015. To subscribe click here.

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