Rapaport Magazine

Raring for rarity

Strong results at the Christie’s and Sotheby’s Geneva sales show a robust appreciation for exceptional jewels, especially ones from big names.

By David Brough

Outstanding Art Deco jewels outperformed expectations at the Sotheby’s and Christie’s Geneva auctions in November, including a 1927 Cartier bracelet that more than doubled its presale estimate at $6.1 million.

Diamonds had more mixed results, with exceptionally rare and beautiful stones still commanding impressive prices, and several others failing to sell. The overall mood was businesslike, but lacked the euphoria surrounding some recent sales.

Christie’s: Signature moves

A rare 7.03-carat, fancy-deep-blue diamond in a ring by Moussaieff achieved $11.6 million at the Christie’s Magnificent Jewels sale, which took place in the Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues on November 12.

“It was a very solid result,” auctioneer Rahul Kadakia told Rapaport Magazine. “It was bought by a client who was very confident and decisive in wanting to acquire the stone, and who went straightaway for the low estimate (hammer price of $10 million), which with the premium (commission) accounts for $1.6 million per carat — a very solid price for a deep-blue diamond. It will reinvigorate the colored-diamond market.”

With a total of approximately $55.3 million, the auction sold 92% by lot. That’s a higher proportion than average for such high-value jewelry auctions, underscoring the continuing strong demand for rare and beautiful items, Kadakia said.

Among the other standout diamond items were two rings that both sold for $2.5 million, beating their $2.2 million high estimates. One was a Harry Winston ring with a rectangular-cut, D-color, VVS2-clarity diamond weighing 25.20 carats, and the other held a rectangular-cut, 32.49-carat, fancy-light-purplish-pink, VS2 diamond.

Art Deco pieces were buoyant, including a multi-gem and enamel cuff by Georges Fouquet that sold for a hammer price of $190,000 — comfortably within its $150,000 to $250,000 estimate.

“Art Deco has always been the best period of jewelry manufacture,” Kadakia commented. “Art Deco will continue to make great prices as it gets more and more scarce to source.”

Elke Berr, a Geneva-based gem dealer who attended the sale, agreed that “excellent Art Deco pieces, especially those with very rare gems, are very sought-after by dealers and collectors.”

Among colored gemstones, exceptional sapphires, emeralds and rubies performed well, and natural pearls soared, maintaining a trend seen at high-value jewelry auctions this year. A Cartier brooch with a Ceylon sapphire weighing 39.19 carats fetched nearly $2 million, smashing its high estimate of $700,000, while a rectangular-cut, 13.53-carat Colombian emerald in a ring sold for just above its $1.2 million high estimate.

“Colored gemstones did extremely well today — emeralds and sapphires in particular,” Kadakia stated.

Jewels by contemporary Paris-based designer JAR saw especially good demand. A pair of earrings with pear-shaped diamonds of 22.52 and 18.05 carats achieved a hammer price of $590,000, well above their $330,000 upper estimate. And a JAR bow ring featuring circular-cut emeralds and single-cut diamonds garnered a hammer price of $240,000, much more than the $150,000 it was expected to attain.

Some lots failed to find buyers, notably a fancy-intense-blue diamond weighing 5.23 carats, which had a presale high estimate of $4.5 million but only managed to secure bids of up to $2.6 million.

“It was an intense-blue diamond and perhaps was not as strongly saturated as collectors would want it to be,” Kadakia commented. “It’s a question of the optic of the stone. It just lacked a little punch of color, and that showed in the result.”

Natural pearls did nicely at the Christie’s sale, reflecting a renewed interest in pearl jewelry around the world amid sentiment that pollution in the oceans is making them increasingly rare. A natural pearl and diamond necklace sold for more than twice its high estimate at a hammer price of $580,000.

Meanwhile, signed pieces by Cartier, JAR, Harry Winston, Bulgari and Van Cleef & Arpels attracted many private collectors.

Other strong performers included 28 pieces by Parisian designer Pierre Sterlé, who gained success during the 1940s and ’50s with royal clients such as King Farouk of Egypt, the Maharani of Baroda and the Begum Aga Khan. The top Sterlé piece at the auction — where several of his works doubled, tripled or quadrupled their presale estimates — was a 1952 diamond necklace that achieved $237,500.

Sotheby’s: Deco carries the day

An extraordinary appetite for the best examples of Art Deco fine jewelry was the takeaway from the Sotheby’s Magnificent Jewels and Noble Jewels sale in Geneva on November 13.

Pursued by six bidders, the top lot was a 1927 Cartier bracelet featuring an exquisite 47.07-carat cabochon sapphire between two pear-shaped diamonds of 8.60 and 9.27 carats. It sold to a female Asian collector for $6.1 million, surging above its high estimate of $3 million and achieving one of the highest prices ever for a bracelet of that period.

“It is an extraordinary price. It is a fantastic bracelet, a unique bracelet,” auctioneer David Bennett told Rapaport Magazine. “This combination of the luscious, voluptuous curves of the cabochon sapphire and of the two antique-cut, pear-shaped diamonds with this architectonic bracelet is really typical of the best period of Art Deco.”

The auction total reached $53.9 million, with 79.6% of the lots selling. Female collectors continued their ascent in the market: Around half the Asian collectors at the sale were women, according to Sotheby’s.

Art Deco pieces in general saw strong prices, reaching a combined total of $9.6 million against a presale estimate of up to $6 million. Just a few moments before the top lot sold, a 1937 sapphire and diamond clip by Cartier fetched a hammer price of $328,348, safely above its high estimate of $250,000. Both of these Art Deco pieces were property from an important Asian American collection.

Another 1927 Cartier piece — a striking cabochon emerald and diamond pendant/brooch — netted $1.1 million after a flurry of bidding, more than quadrupling its $250,000 high estimate. The piece is an example of Cartier’s Indian style from that period, as is evident from its use of Mughal stones.

Meanwhile, a 1929 diamond and rock crystal sautoir by Chaumet went for $529,397, exceeding its high estimate of $500,000.

“Despite a soft market in general, signed pieces with exceptional gems were the stars of the sales this season,” said Helen Molesworth of Gübelin Academy in Switzerland, who regularly attends the Geneva auctions. In particular, she pointed to “fine Art Deco pieces or unique modern jewels. And if mounted with particularly impressive or special gems, like the 47-carat Burmese sapphire in the 1927 Cartier bracelet...then they doubled or even tripled their original estimates.”

Gem dealer Berr addressed the supply of high-quality Art Deco pieces on the market today. “The problem is more how to source them. As the auction houses have privileged access to high-level private collections, these treasures are achieving high prices, and the collectors are ‘fighting’ against each other.”

In the diamond category, a pendant with a heart-shaped, very-light-blue stone weighing 14.69 carats saw fierce bidding and ultimately went for approximately $1.3 million, more than double the $600,000 high estimate. An eye-catching pear-shaped, 78.29-carat diamond with VVS1 clarity also exceeded its high estimate at $2.9 million. Topping both of those was a 6.03-carat, fancy-intense-purple-pink diamond pendant that came in at the higher end of its estimate with nearly $3.4 million.

“Eighty percent of the diamonds in this sale sold, and sold well,” noted Bennett. Among the higher-value lots that went unsold was a pair of emerald and diamond earrings by Harry Winston. Such items can fail at auction simply because they did not find the right collector on the night of the event.

However, a pair of amethyst, sapphire and diamond ear clips by JAR netted a hammer price of $330,000, surpassing estimates and showing “that there is a very strong demand still for JAR pieces,” according to Bennett.

Image: Christie’s Images LTD. 2019

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - January 2020. To subscribe click here.

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