Rapaport Magazine

Rubies Rule

True to Chinese tradition, red was lucky for Christie’s.

By Liana Cafolla

A 62.46-carat Burmese ruby and diamond necklace named Red Scarlet sold
for $5,169,842.

Drizzling rain and falling temperatures did little to dampen the upbeat atmosphere at Christie’s fall auction of Magnificent Jewels, which was held November 27 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. The auction comprised 302 lots with a presale estimate of
$70 million. The sale was sold 80 percent by lot and 82 percent by value for a total of $75,256,901, slightly down from the $80,258,468 achieved in Christie’s May sale.
By value, the sale was identical to the 82 percent attained in May.

   “We expected the results would be more or less like this, but the whole auction really did well, the atmosphere as well,” said Vickie Sek, head of Christie’s Asia jewelry and jadeite department. “In such a quiet market everywhere, the results were better than expected. The sale demonstrates that we are selling the top gems and good-quality diamonds in our Hong Kong sale.”

Top Ten Buyers
   The top ten lots featured mainly diamonds and rubies, and all ten were bought by Asian privates. “A few trade did participate in our auction, but in the end, the privates outbid them,” said Sek.
   Compared to Christie’s and Sotheby’s previous 2012 sales, Sek said more local
Hong Kong, Taiwan and other Asian buyers were taking home the goods and fewer Mainland Chinese, although one or two Mainland Chinese did appear in the top ten listing. “The whole market has slowed down in China, we noticed, in all the categories,” Sek added. “This time was really quiet from Europe, Dubai, America — everywhere. But on the other hand, all our Asian private buyers are very active.”

   This sale, like Sotheby’s October auction, ran for a marathon eight hours, partly because of the large number of lengthy bidding rounds. The auction room was packed for much of the sale, and the atmosphere was upbeat and relaxed, with many buyers jostling for pieces and frequent bouts of fast-paced bidding. More telephone salespeople than usual were manning the telephones, and bids came often through the internet from Taiwan, Japan
and Macau.

   Rings of all kinds attracted bids, as did designer names such as Harry Winston and Cartier. Many jade items fared well in the sale, as they always do in Hong Kong, attracting intense bidding from buyers in the room. One of the top ten sellers was a lavender jadeite necklace of 63 beads, which sold for $1,756,138* — one of only two items in the top ten list that sold for more than the high end of its presale estimate range.
   Christie’s was holding viewings for several forthcoming sales in adjoining rooms, and many attendees flitted from the jewelry sale to visit the furniture, art and ceramics on display nearby.

The Mighty Reds
   Featuring prominently in the sale were rare and vibrant Burmese rubies, which were
also the stars of Sotheby’s October auction. Two lots — taking first and fifth place on the top ten list — were by James W. Currens for Faidee. The star attraction was a stunning 62.46-carat unheated Burmese ruby and diamond necklace, named Red Scarlet, that contained 26 oval-shaped rubies ranging between 5.38 carats and 1.27 carats in size, accented with clusters of pear- and marquise-shaped diamonds. The fifth-top lot, also featuring unheated Burmese rubies and diamonds, was a pair of earrings dubbed the
Red Butterflies, with each earring containing two rubies weighing more than 7 carats each. The pieces were sold to two different private Asian buyers after some heavy bidding, with the necklace selling for $5,169,842 and the earrings for $3,136,146, both comfortably within their respective presale estimate ranges.

   The appeal of Burmese rubies, which are banned from being imported into the U.S., is a given in Asia. Red is the most important color in Chinese culture. Believed to symbolize luck and happiness, it features prominently in celebrations and decoration, especially during the year-end festive season. Brides, for example, typically wear a red cheongsam — the traditional Chinese dress — at their weddings, and red paper packets containing cash, known as “lucky money,” are distributed as gifts during Chinese New Year.
   Bidders moved from red to green for the second-top lot, a pair of emerald, diamond and pearl earrings in which the pear-shaped Colombian emeralds clocked in at 23.34 carats and 23.18 carats. The lot, named The Grand Muzos in honor of their origin, the famed Muzo emerald mines, sold for $4,298,258.

A Thumbs-Up for the Future
   Reflecting the recent cautious optimism expressed by Hong Kong diamond sellers, Christie’s said the sale results augured well for future sales of exceptional jewels in
Hong Kong. “The outlook is positive,” said François Curiel, president of Christie’s Asia. “Prices for one-of-a-kind jewels, special contemporary creations and jewels of exceptional provenance have risen dramatically in recent years and have now achieved similar status to a great picture by Picasso or Van Gogh.”

*All prices include buyer’s premium.

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - January 2013. To subscribe click here.

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