Rapaport Magazine

Slow Going

There was price resistance among buyers for big-ticket items at Sotheby’s Hong Kong sale.

By Mary Kavanagh
The overall results of the recent Sotheby’s Hong Kong Magnificent Jewels and Jadeite autumn sale fell far short of the $65 million sales forecast and many of the highlighted lots were unsold. This year’s autumn auction totaled $24,699,199, a little over one-third of the presale estimate. The 192-lot sale sold 59.92 percent by lot and 38.8 percent by value, with 77 lots failing to sell. This compares to Sotheby’s spring Hong Kong sale earlier this year, which brought in $73,333,013, and to Sotheby’s autumn Hong Kong auction in October 2015, which achieved $62,368,750. The total amount was also significantly less than the disappointing Sotheby’s spring Hong Kong sale in April 2015, which achieved $37,202,244, just over one-third of the presale estimate.
   “The sale was assembled following our record results achieved in Geneva in May and what emerged this week is that there is some resistance at certain levels,” a spokesperson for Sotheby’s jewelry department said in a statement. “While we were disappointed that a number of highlights failed to find buyers, we were pleased with a number of notable prices achieved.”
   Rubies from the famed Mogok valley in Burma have proved popular at auctions in Asia in recent years, and the top lot of this sale was a “pigeon blood red” ruby and diamond ring of this origin, shown above. The 5.07-carat ruby, surrounded by four pear-shaped diamonds weighing 7.56 carats in total, was sold to a private Asian buyer for $1,933,333,* just below the low presale estimate.

Top Ten
   White diamonds, yellow diamonds, jadeite and precious gemstones featured strongly in the top ten. Sapphires were noticeable by their absence, with two of the auction highlights — a 20.22-carat sapphire and diamond ring dubbed “The Pride of Kashmir” and a 21.72-carat sapphire and diamond ring — failing to sell. Also noteworthy were the two parures that featured in the top ten list.
   The second top lot of the sale, and arguably the most highly contested piece of the evening, was an emerald and diamond demi-parure by Bulgari, shown opposite. It was bought by a private Asian buyer for $1,779,487, significantly above the high presale estimate of $1,040,000. “Signed jewelry by renowned houses such as Bulgari, Cartier and Graff performed well, as evidenced by our cover lot, a Bulgari emerald and diamond demi-parure, which was sought by multiple collectors before selling for $1.78 million, three times its low estimate,” a spokesperson for Sotheby’s jewelry department said.
   White diamonds featured strongly among the sale highlights. The third top lot, a step-cut 13.60-carat diamond ring by Cartier, was sold for $1,702,564 — a step above the low presale estimate — to an Asian private buyer. “Demand remains strong for exceptional colorless diamonds,” the Sotheby’s spokesperson said. This was also evidenced by the fifth top lot of the evening — a pair of unmounted diamonds weighing 5.96 carats and 5.86 carats, respectively, which were bought by an Asian private buyer for $1,102,564, close to the high presale estimate. Similarly, a pair of diamond pendant earrings, the eighth top lot, bought by a member of the international trade for $687,179, sold just under the high presale estimate.
   Yellow diamonds also featured strongly in the top ten. The fourth top lot, a 10.81-carat fancy vivid yellow diamond and diamond ring, was bought by an anonymous buyer for $1,241,026, slightly above the low presale estimate. A fancy intense yellow diamond, fancy yellow diamond, fancy light yellow diamond and diamond parure by Graff was sold to an Asian private buyer for $610,256, above the presale low estimate of $520,000. This set hailed from a private collection and comprised a pair of ear clips, a ring, and a necklace.
   Jadeite also featured strongly in the top ten, with a rare pair of jadeite “double hoop” and diamond pendant earrings selling for $810,256 to an Asian private, slightly above the high presale estimate. A jadeite bead necklace with a diamond and ruby-set clasp was bought by an Asian private collector for $733,333, slightly below the high presale estimate.
   Private collectors from Asia dominated the top ten list yet again, a trend that has been ongoing for the past number of years. They purchased 80 percent of the top lots, with a member of the international trade and an anonymous buyer making up the total. Overall, the sale was rather muted, and the unspoken question is whether or not the “resistance” will persist and if Sotheby’s can rebuild momentum for its 2017 spring Asia sale. “A number of our consignors were influenced by the strong results of the record sale in Geneva in May and had relatively high expectation on prices. It might have led to a discrepancy of expectations for certain items,” Sotheby’s jewelry department concluded in a statement. Only time will tell.
*All prices include buyer’s premium.

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

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