2013 especially November really was an incredible time for the sale of fantastic gems and jewellery. So much so, I have decided to do a round-up of the auction highlights for you.
Since the 1970’s the two main auction houses Sotheby’s and Christie’s held regular sales devoted to important diamonds and coloured stones. These regular auctions have heightened interest exponentially of coloured gems and has consequently become a strong indicator of their market value.
Since the 2007 crash of the world economy the price of gems, especially coloured ones, has risen year on year, with auction estimates regularly being smashed by the time the hammer falls. And yet there is still no sign that the ceiling price has been anywhere near reached.
The time for coloured gems is now, and the auction results prove it.
Pink Star diamond fetches record $83m at auction 13th Nov
The most famous sale of the month and the absolute pick of the bunch was the sale of a stunning diamond known as the “Pink Star” which sold for a staggering $83m (£52m) at auction in Geneva – a record price for a gemstone. The record breaking didn’t stop there, Sotheby’s reported that it sold almost $200m worth of jewellery in that auction, a record for a single auction.
The Pink Star diamond measuring 2.69cm x 2.06cm, was sold to Isaac Wolf, a well-known New York diamond cutter who has renamed it the “Pink Dream”. The winning bid was for 68m Swiss francs ($74m) there was a long silence between that offer and the previous telephone bid of 67m Swiss francs, but the auctioneer David Bennett said that for 67m francs he could allow a quick word! He further commented “Ladies and gentlemen, 68 million is the world record bid for a diamond ever bid and it’s right here,” as he brought down the hammer. Then to add to the occasion Sotheby’s played the theme tune from the “Pink Panther” movie after the winning bid was confirmed!
According to the auctioneer, the Pink Star was mined by De Beers in Africa in 1999, but it did not say which country. “It’s really extraordinarily rare,” said Mr Bennett. “Very, very few of these stones have ever appeared at auction.” It took two years to cut and polish the diamond, which was 132.5 carat in its rough state. In its finished condition the Pink Star is 59.60 carat, more than double the size of the next biggest diamond in its class.
Photo Credit: Getty Images
Of course the auction didn’t stop there, The Richelieu Sapphires, a pair of rare and magnificent Kashmir sapphire and diamond earrings also went under the hammer and almost doubled the estimate of £2,887,796 as the lovely pair of earrings achieved £5,221,152.
The unheated stones, each weighing 26.66cts and 20.88cts are from Kashmir, where the world’s most sought after sapphires are found. The mines were discovered by chance as a result of a landslide between 1879-1882, but at 4,500m above sea level and for much of the year covered in snow, mining operations were limited to three months of the year. By 1887 the “old mine” was exhausted and the “new mine” was abandoned in 1908. Looking through a Kashmir sapphire is like looking up into the Himalayan sky, as the inclusions in the stone can sometimes resemble wispy clouds. Kashmir sapphires have a rich, velvety appearance and the colour is sometimes referred to as a “cornflower blue”. To find a matching pair of this size is very rare indeed.
A few weeks later, Christie’s in Hong Kong Sets the Asian Jewellery Auction Record
Christie’s “Hong Kong Magnificent Jewels” auction achieved a record-breaking $111 million (HK$859 million) in total sales on November 26, making it the highest total ever for a jewellery auction in Asia, according to Christie’s.
Results were described as robust with 86% sold by lot – 266 of 309 lots offered. The top lot of the auction was a circular-cut D Flawless diamond rivière comprising 52 stones that weigh a total of 105 carats. It was sold to a private Asian collector for $8.14 million (HK$62.8 million) with buyer’s premium, within its $7.26 – 9.33 million (HK$56 – 72 million) estimation.
It was followed by a Burmese ruby and diamond necklace by Hong Kong-based jeweller Etcetera, which weighs a total of 87.8cts. At $6.4 million (HK$49.4 million), including buyer’s premium. The necklace, also sold to a private Asian collector, set a new world record price for a ruby necklace on November 26.
Another record was set by lot 2063, an oval-shaped fancy intense orange pink VVS1 clarity diamond of 12.9cts. The coloured diamond is set within a brilliant-cut diamond border with a pear-shaped diamond surround, and is mounted in a platinum and 18k rose gold ring. It exchanged hands for $4.95 million (HK$38.2 million) with buyer’s premium, within its $4.28 – 6.48 million (HK$33 – 50 million) estimation. The piece sets the record price for an orangey pink diamond, as well as the per-carat price for an orangey pink diamond.
The showstopper here was Lot 2048. A stunning rare purple star sapphire, tsavorite garnet and diamond ring by Wallace Chan. Its estimate of between £54.8 – 71k was totally smashed when the hammer dropped at £85,072. The star, or asterism, is caused by the needle-like crystals of rutile that have formed parallel to the crystal faces so that when cut en cabochon will form a 4 or 6 ray star. These are wonderful stones and to find a purple one is very unusual. Set with green garnets (tsavorites) and diamonds, with the shank decorated with scroll titanium inlay makes for a very eye catching jewel, designed by one of Asia’s most talented jewellery designers. This is a present any woman would love to find in her Christmas stocking.
The final auction of the month was Christie’s London’s Important Jewels auction on November 27.
The Christie’s London sale – their last before Christmas – included such a wide variety of jewels that there was something for everyone, provided that ‘everyone’ is a millionaire. There were no less than eight diamond tiaras – a sign that demand is still high for these ultimate head ornaments. The catalogue had its own Cartier section where 33 lots were offered for sale including wristwatches, compact cases and an art deco aquamarine and diamond clip very similar to one that Queen Elizabeth II owns. In the afternoon session there was a collection of six René Lalique works of art ending with a fabulous Burmese sapphire pendant.
Among so many stunning lots there were those that stood out even more than the rest – Art Nouveau was definitely the flavour of the day.
At this auction the most beautiful lot of the day was Lot 339, a show stopping but sophisticated statement ring, an art deco moonstone, sapphire and diamond cocktail ring by Van Cleef & Arpels, circa 1940. The estimate for this piece was a low £8k and it finally realised, after a flurry of bids on the phone, floor and internet, £21.25k Lot 315, an art nouveau gold and enamel necklace of entwined gold ivy leaves with black and brown enamel gold berries, signed by Lucien Gaillard, circa 1900, doubled its estimate and realised £32.5k. Showing that Art Nouveau is still very popular right at the top end of the market. Gaillard is a lesser-known art nouveau jeweller and was not as prolific as Lalique but nevertheless was one of the greatest jewellery designers of his time. He was influenced by Japanese art and never used human figures or faces in his designs – unlike many of his peers. His trademark was a single m.
Of course you will also remember the other big hitters of the year.
Egg sized Diamond sells for $30.8 million
The price topped the previous record of $26.7m for a white diamond sold at an auction in Geneva in May. The stone, sold in six minutes of bidding on Monday night, was described by Sotheby’s as “the largest D colour flawless diamond D colour” or finest white diamonds are considered extremely rare and fetch premium prices. The gem was discovered in a mine in an undisclosed southern African country in 2011 and weighed 299 carats before cutting. Pre-sale estimates had valued the diamond, given the highest quality rating by the Gemological Institute of America, at $28-$35m.
Vivid orange Diamond sells for £22 million
The 14.82-carat vivid orange diamond shattered its high estimate of $21 million. It was the last of the 286 lots that were up for sale at the auction held at the Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues. It set a world record for a fancy vivid orange diamond. At $2,398,151 per carat, it also set a world record price per carat for any coloured diamond sold at auction.
Photo Credit: Getty Images
Pear Shaped Diamond 101.73 carats sells for $26.7
Back in May, a spectacular 101.73 ct. D flawless diamond fetched an equally spectacular price at Christie’s Magnificent Jewels sale in Geneva—$26.7 million, or $254,400 per carat. This was a new world record for a colourless diamond sold at auction, which has since been surpassed as records for diamonds do not last long. The buyer was Harry Winston, in one of its first moves under new owner Swatch. The diamond will be named the “Winston Legacy,” in keeping with “the founder’s tradition of buying only the best,” says Christie’s international head of jewellery Francios Curiel. Swatch did not reply to a request for comment on its plans for the gem.
Princie Intense Pink Diamond sells for $39.3
In April, The Princie, a 34.65 ct. fancy intense pink cushion cut, scored $39.3 million ($1.1 million a carat) at Christie’s New York – making it the most expensive jewel ever sold in the auction house’s 200-plus year history. The Type IIa stone – which was found in the famed Golconda mines of India – was originally owned by the Nizams of Hyderabad, rulers of the south central state in India. It was first auctioned in 1960 and purchased for £46,000 by the London branch of Van Cleef & Arpels. The diamond was named in honour of 14-year-old Prince of Baroda, India, who attended a party at a Paris Van Cleef store in 1960 with his mother, Maharani Sita Devi.
The result of Sotheby’s and Christie’s Magnificent and Important Jewellery auctions have become so popular with buyers and the media alike, that they have placed themselves in direct competition to long-established jewellery houses such as Cartier, Tiffany, and Van Cleef & Arpels. Perhaps because some people like to own a piece of jewellery with a bit of history and the auction houses do excel at telling the story of the product. However, the main purchasers of the giant coloured gems are mostly investors as they seek to place their money in something more solid than stocks and shares. The fever for knowledge and ownership of coloured diamonds and gemstones seems to be universal and ever growing. I imagine that this time next year, if I do another auction special, I will be reporting that all the above records will have been smashed. It is indeed rather exciting times for gem dealers, jewellers and investors alike.