Rapaport Magazine

Auction report

Holding pattern

Blue diamonds continue to dominate Sotheby’s and Christie’s New York sales, with pink and colorless not far behind.

By Anthony DeMarco

Christie’s – ‘Hungry for rare colored diamonds’

In recent years, the pecking order at international jewelry auctions has been fancy colored diamonds — particularly blue and pink — followed by colorless diamonds, then statement rubies, sapphires and emeralds from historic mines, and finally signed jewels.

This order largely held up at the Christie’s and Sotheby’s Magnificent Jewels sales in New York, which took place on April 17 and 18, respectively. Blue diamonds ruled both auctions, while pink diamonds produced mixed results. Colorless diamonds gained momentum, dominating the top lots at both events. Sapphires and emeralds performed well, though rubies didn’t attract much attention outside of signed jewels. And regarding signed jewels, they continue to be among the fastest-growing categories at auction, even though they don’t generally achieve the prices that diamonds and gemstones do.

The top lot of the sale was a rectangular-cut, 3.09-carat, fancy intense blue diamond that fetched nearly $5.4 million, well above its high estimate of $3 million. Its per-carat price of approximately $1.7 million set a world record for an intense blue diamond at auction — at least, until Sotheby’s sale broke that record the next day.

Blue and pink diamonds dominated the top 10 Christie’s lots, accounting for the four highest sellers. Then came colorless diamonds and signed jewels by JAR, Van Cleef & Arpels and Cartier. The auction, which totaled 211 lots, brought in approximately $45.7 million overall, selling 88% by lot and 96% by value.

One of the leading pieces with blue and pink diamonds was a ring with a cut-cornered rectangular modified brilliant-cut, 8.42-carat, fancy intense pink stone that went for just over $5 million. Another was a signed Cartier ring with two pear-shaped diamonds — one a 2.85-carat fancy intense pink, and the other a 2.42-carat fancy vivid blue — which sold for more than $4.5 million. Both were within estimates.

“We had two fancy vivid blues and three fancy intense blues [in total at the sale], which I think is quite a bit,” says Angelina Chen, Christie’s jewelry specialist. “They all sold very well and show that the market is still hungry for rare colored diamonds.”

After the Cartier ring, the highest price for a signed jewel went to a diamond thread ring by JAR with an elongated oval brilliant-cut, 22.76-carat diamond.The ring — which brought in more than $2.7 million, within estimates — once belonged to actress Ellen Barkin and sold at a 2006 Christie’s auction for $1.8 million, according to Chen, meaning it gained significantly in value between then and now. “It has a very unusual long shape, and if it was just a diamond and not in a ring by JAR, the value would be so different,” she says.

Among colorless diamonds, a ring featuring a rectangular-cut, 33.46-carat diamond flanked by tapered baguette-cut diamonds sold for nearly $2.3 million, beating its high estimate of $1.8 million. The diamond was attractive to buyers, explains Chen, because it was an exceptional stone with E color and VS1 clarity, offering better value for its size than a flawless stone would.

Sotheby’s – New records, surprising failures

A fancy intense blue diamond weighing 3.47 carats led the Sotheby’s sale, fetching $6.7 million and setting a new world auction record for a fancy intense blue diamond’s price per carat (more than $1.9 million). It also easily surpassed its $2.5 million high estimate.

The item overshadowed the three highest-valued lots that failed to sell, two of which were fancy pink diamonds (the third was a necklace with a 33.25-carat diamond pendant). All three lots had high estimates of at least $5 million; the first was a square-cut, 7-carat, fancy intense pink diamond on a ring with an estimate of $4.2 million to $5.2 million, while the second was a ring with an emerald-cut, 7.37-carat, fancy intense orangy-pink diamond estimated at $3 million to $5 million.

The strong results for the blue and pink diamonds don’t necessarily reflect the broader market, however, according to Sotheby’s jewelry specialist Quig Bruning. The record-setting blue diamond in particular, he says, “was a beautiful cut and a really pure color, and I think that the expectation is that once that stone is sort of refashioned, it might become a great vivid diamond. You can look at the market as a whole, or you can look at individual pieces within it. That particular individual piece was a really special diamond at a very alluring starting price point, and that attracted much interest.”

Still, the three unsold items dampened an otherwise successful 137-lot auction that totaled more than $26.1 million, with 78.1% of the lots finding buyers. There was also a significant gap between the highest-selling lot and the rest of the top 10, which were distributed among colorless diamonds, sapphires and emeralds, including a couple of Tiffany & Co. pieces.

Among the standouts were:

● An emerald-cut, 13.70-carat diamond ring by Tiffany & Co. with D color and VS1 clarity, which went for $1.15 million ($84,307 per carat), eclipsing its $800,000 high estimate.

● A cushion-cut, 11.24-carat Kashmir sapphire on a diamond ring that sold for $999,000 ($88,879 per carat) — nearly double its high estimate of $500,000.

● A diamond and emerald necklace by Tiffany & Co. consisting of 16 marquise-shaped diamonds and 16 step-cut emeralds, which garnered $855,000, within estimates. The piece was from the estate of philanthropist Betsey Cushing Whitney and last went up for auction 20 years ago.

Signed jewels like the two Tiffany & Co. pieces continue to attract a great deal of attention among buyers, Bruning reports. “It continues to be the core of the jewelry auction market,” he says. “Whether it’s vintage Van Cleef or brand-new Hemmerle pieces, this is where the demand is really insatiable.”

Taking the Tiffany necklace as an example, he notes that “if you just were looking at the diamond price of it, you’d have a hard time coming up with the [high] price. But when you add the fact that it is a vintage Tiffany piece and it came from the Whitney family, all of a sudden it manages to attract a lot of bidders.”

Image: Christie's

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - June 2018. To subscribe click here.

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