Rapaport Magazine

Millennium Blue Tops Sale

Sotheby’s set a new record for the most expensive jewel ever to be auctioned in Asia at its spring Hong Kong Magnificent Jewels and Jadeite sale.

By Mary Kavanagh
The De Beers Millennium Jewelry 4, a 10.10-carat oval-shaped fancy vivid blue diamond
sold for $31,830,769, setting an auction record for a jewel sold in Asia.
Photo courtesy Sotheby’s.

A new auction record for the sale of a jewel was set at Sotheby’s April Hong Kong auction by the De Beers Millennium Jewel 4. This magnificent 10.10-carat oval-shaped fancy vivid blue diamond sold to an anonymous telephone buyer for $31,830,769* — beating the previous record set by the Magnificent Oval Diamond — a 118.28-carat D flawless white stone that was bought by an Asian private collector for $30.6 million at the 2013 Sotheby’s autumn Hong Kong sale. “We are delighted with the results of this sale, with the De Beers Millennium Jewel 4 setting a record for any jewel sold at auction in Asia,” said Quek Chin Yeow, deputy chairman of Sotheby’s Asia and chairman of international jewelry, Asia. At $3,151,561 per carat, this internally flawless stone was the largest oval-shaped fancy vivid blue diamond ever to appear at auction.
   “Dealers from all over the world thought it was a great price,” Quek said. “It’s one of only three stones to achieve above $3 million per carat, so it’s quite a tremendous result.” Sotheby’s has a strong track record in the sale of rare blue diamonds, having sold other record-breaking stones.
   The April sales achieved $73,333,013 in total against a presale estimate of $96 million. The 271-lot sale was sold 65.7 percent by lot and 69.3 percent by value, with 93 lots failing to sell. This compares to Sotheby’s autumn Hong Kong sale in October 2015, which brought in $62,368,750, and the spring 2015 sale, which brought in $37,202,244, just over one third of the presale estimate.

Highs and Lows
   The sale was a mixed bag both in terms of what was on offer and the results achieved. There was a broad range of diamonds and fancy color diamonds, gemstones, pearls and jadeite on offer and all of these were represented in the top ten lots. And yet, the sale clearly showcased colored diamonds. In addition to the blue stone, the top lots featured a highly contested 4.08-carat pear-shaped fancy vivid orange diamond and a 5.20-carat pear-shaped diamond ring, an equally coveted 10.30-carat fancy vivid yellow diamond and diamond ring and a rare heart-shaped 4.09-carat fancy intense green diamond, which failed to sell.
   The vivid orange closed the auction to applause when it sold to the international trade for $2,471,795, significantly above the high presale estimate of $1.8 million, to be the fourth top lot of the evening. The 10.30-carat fancy vivid yellow diamond and diamond ring was bought by an Asian private collector for $1,456,410, slightly above the low presale estimate of $1.3 million. “Colored diamonds did extremely well, other than the green not selling,” Quek said, adding that the appetite for white diamonds was also stronger than expected. The second top lot of the sale was a 22.40-carat D internally flawless ring, which sold for $3,687,179, slightly above the low presale estimate. “We refused a number of white diamonds this time around,” Quek said. “If we had known they would sell so well, we would have taken more.”
   The sale also featured an excellent selection of jadeite items, including the third top lot of the sale, a jadeite and diamond ring and pair of matching earrings, which sold for $2,471,795 to an anonymous buyer. Yet the cream of the crop, an oval jadeite cabochon ring mounted in 18-carat yellow gold, failed to sell. “We had very strong viewing for the jadeite ring, but the buyers changed their mind at the last minute,” Quek said, adding that a number of post-auction sales were still taking place. Sapphires also did well, with a 12-carat sapphire and diamond ring featuring in the top ten.

Pearl Necklace a Hot Item
   One of the highlights of the sale was a rare natural pearl and diamond necklace with a diamond clasp by Van Cleef & Arpels, part of a private Asian collection. The fifth top lot, it sparked the most competitive bidding and long-drawn-out battle of the sale before selling to an Asian private collector for $2,394,872, over $1.7 million above the presale estimate of $645,000. “We had at least eight to ten bidders for the necklace. It was very exciting,” Quek said, adding that dealers flew in from a number of countries to view it and that client feedback was that it was a great price in the current market.

Mixed Bidding
   Although the room wasn’t packed, attendance at the auction was good and those present actively participated in the bidding. Telephone bidding was also strong. The mood was rather subdued overall, with a few sporadic short bouts of excitement for highly contested items such as the pearl necklace and orange diamond ring. Seven of the top ten purchasers were private collectors from Asia, two were anonymous and possibly also from Asia, with the tenth buyer coming from the international trade community. On a positive note, Sotheby’s reported they had some new buyers in the room from around the region, “who bought substantially.”
   Sotheby’s remains positive about the auction market in Asia. Speaking of the new auction record, David Bennett, chairman of Sotheby’s international jewelry division, said, “The fact that it’s a record price for jewelry in Asia speaks well about the Asian market… I think it’s alive and well and very healthy.”
   *All prices include buyer’s premium.

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - May 2016. To subscribe click here.

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