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Online Innovation Propels 2020 Auction Sales

Dec 28, 2020 8:36 AM   By Rapaport News
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While many would consider 2020 one of the most challenging years the industry has faced, auction sales told a different story, as successful digital offerings changed the road map for how customers bought luxury products.

“While undoubtedly there will still be a place for traditional auctions in the saleroom, the fast-tracked digital route in 2020 has already changed and will continue to change the way in which jewelry collectors spend,” Leslie Roskind, head of jewelry in Hong Kong for Bonhams, said earlier this month.

The auction house saw a 40% rise in buyers for its online tenders, a third of whom were under 40. Sotheby’s reported a 32% increase in new buyers compared with 2019, with nearly a third of its participants under age 40. Overall, some 32% of jewelry buyers at Christie’s were new. The value of jewels sold online by the auction house increased 241% year on year, it added.

The Spirit of the Rose, an oval modified brilliant-cut, 14.83-carat, fancy-vivid-purple-pink, internally flawless diamond mined by Alrosa, was the most valuable jewel sold during the year. Sotheby’s sold the stone, which was the largest of its color ever to appear at auction, for $26.6 million at its November Magnificent Jewels sale in Geneva. Meanwhile, the jewel that fetched the highest value for Christie’s in 2020 was a marquise-cut, 12.11-carat, fancy-intense-blue, internally flawless diamond ring. It garnered $15.9 million in Hong Kong in July.

The coronavirus pandemic didn’t keep the auction houses from achieving new records during the year. An oval-shaped, 102.39-carat, D-flawless diamond brought in $15.7 million at Sotheby’s Hong Kong in October. That stone was the first world-class diamond ever auctioned without reserve, Sotheby’s said. Christie’s sold an emerald-cut, 28.86-carat, D color, VVS1-clarity, type IIa diamond for $2.1 in June, setting a world auction record for the highest price fetched for a jewel in an online-only sale.

Sotheby’s also noted an increase in participation from Asian buyers, who purchased six out of 10 of the most valuable jewels sold during the year, and made up 50% of total online jewelry sales. In addition, the highest-value bid ever placed on a jewel online — $11 million — was from an Asian customer for the 102.39-carat diamond. 

Images: The 102.39-carat diamond (top left), the Spirit of the Rose (top right), the 12.11-carat marquise cut (bottom left), and the 28.86-carat diamond (bottom right). (Sotheby’s, Christie’s)
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Tags: Alrosa, bonhams, Christie’s, Leslie Roskind, Magnificent Jewels, Rapaport News, Sotheby’s, Spirit of the Rose
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