Rapaport Magazine

The Big Three

Christie’s Hong Kong set three new world auction price records and a new record for the most valuable jewelry auction ever held in Asia at its spring sale.

By Mary Kavanagh

Burmese ruby and diamond necklace by Etcetera sold for $13,006,656, setting a new world auction record for a ruby necklace.
Presale estimates were smashed and competition was intense at the Christie’s Hong Kong Magnificent Jewels June auction. Three new world records were established, one for a ruby necklace, another for a single jadeite cabochon and the third for a sapphire. The private collection of K’ung Hsing-Hsi, a wealthy Chinese banker and politician in the early twentieth century, sold for $14,600,000, seven times higher than its low presale estimate.
   “We knew from our tours, feedback from clients and the media attention received that the sale would be good, even very good,” said Vickie Sek, deputy chairman of Christie’s Asia and director of Christie’s jewelry and jadeite department. “But the end result, making it the most valuable jewelry auction ever held in Asia, was beyond our expectations.”
   The June sale achieved $117,892,325* — the highest total ever for any jewelry auction in Asia. The 314-lot sale was 89.5 percent sold by lot and 88.4 percent sold by value. This compares to Christie’s autumn Hong Kong sale in November 2014, which brought in a total of $95,050,066 and its spring Hong Kong sale in May 2014, which brought in a total of $91,951,200.

Brand Names in Demand
   Jewelry items by well-known brands such as Graff, Harry Winston and Moussaieff dominated the top lots, but the outstanding brand was Etcetera, which accounted for three of the top ten lots, including the top and third lots of the evening. “We were honored to work with Hong Kong–based jewelry maestro, Edmond Chin of Etcetera, who entrusted us with the three mesmerizing pieces that made the evening a triumph,” Sek said.
   A stunning Burmese ruby and diamond necklace by Etcetera was the top lot of the night. After a long drawn-out and intensely competitive bidding process, it was bought by an Asian private buyer for $13,006,656 — almost double the low presale estimate — to set a new world auction record for a ruby necklace. The in-room participants applauded and screamed when the hammer finally fell. Etcetera’s oval-shaped 5.11-carat Burmese ruby ring was another highlight of the evening. The fourth top lot, it sold for $3,862,080, more than two-and-a-half times its low presale estimate of $1,500,000. Etcetera’s 38.51-carat emerald and diamond bangle, the largest no oil Colombian emerald ever to be auctioned, sold for $2,337,984.

Record-breaking Prices
   A jadeite cabochon pendant, the third top lot of the evening, was bought by an Asian private buyer for $5,676,480, far exceeding the high presale estimate of $4,800,000 to set a new world record. Christie’s also achieved a world auction record price for a Kashmir sapphire of 10.33 carats, which sold for $2,483,136, or $240,381 per carat. “Its color, unusual round shape and Kashmir origin made it irresistible to gem aficionados,” Sek said, adding that all three new world-record-breaking stones attracted fierce competition among collectors.

Family Collection Soars
   Another of the sale’s highlights was the private collection of K’ung Hsing-Hsi. Consisting of jadeite, diamonds, natural pearls and colored stones, it sparked a bidding frenzy, achieving $14,600,000, over seven times its presale estimates. “The private collection attracted strong interest very early on, as the quality of the pieces was truly outstanding,” Sek said. “What we did not expect was the intensity of the bidding and the extraordinary prices they were able to achieve. Lot 1890, an octagonal jadeite plaque and diamond ring, shot to 28 times its presale estimate, as did lot 1889, another amazing jadeite ring. A third set of jadeite rings, lot 1888, sold for 32 times its estimate,” Sek continued, noting that both the quality and provenance of the collection was a major draw. “The room was packed with collectors, professionals — and, I suspect, history scholars — and almost the entire collection was sold out. Bidders threw out the usual scale of bid augmentation, offering increments in millions. I have rarely seen such enthusiasm in my entire career,” Sek added. An in-room participant, who wished to remain anonymous, said he had never experienced a sale like this. “The results were crazy today.”

Fierce Competition
   Bidding was very competitive throughout the sale, which attracted “an incredible turnout,” according to Sek. Not only were all seats taken, but also the standing space. “You could feel the passion and excitement in the air,” Sek said. “Crowds came early for seats, and many were left standing despite our twice adding chairs,” she continued.
   Once the K’ung family collection came up for sale, “the energy level and pace picked up and shot through the roof,” Sek noted, “There was fierce bidding for every single item, and the whole collection was snapped up within minutes. For a while, I thought I was at the New York Stock Exchange. It was an intense moment for all in the saleroom, bidders and non-bidders alike,” Sek explained.
   Buyers came from all over the world, although Christie’s has a loyal clientele in Hong Kong who account for 50 percent of sales each season, according to Sek. Each of the top ten lots in this sale was bought by an Asian private buyer. All in all, it was a successful auction. “I received hundreds of congratulatory emails from clients and friends within the industry, who are convinced, as we are, by our results that the market is robust and thriving,” Sek said.
*All prices include buyer’s premium.

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

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