Auctions & Exhibits

NEW YORK AUCTIONS: THE BEST FOR THE MOST

The spring auctions in New York City were good for the best quality colored diamonds, not so good for anything less

Top-of-the-line colored diamonds hit world-record prices during the spring auctions at Sotheby’s and Christie’s in New York City. But the market was shaky for diamonds and colored stones that were anything less than the absolute best.

At Sotheby’s April 10 sale, Sam Abram, an agent for Siba Rare Jewelers of Hong Kong, paid $2.1 million for a 4.92-ct. pink diamond, a record per-carat price of $425,305 for that color. On the other hand, the 21.3-ct. pink diamond offered up as the auction finale failed to attract a bidder.

At Christie’s sale on April 12, Middle Eastern dealer Ahmed H. Fitaihi paid more than $7.5 million for a 13.49-ct. rectangular-cut blue diamond, a record per-carat price of $550,000 for that color. But, as at Sotheby’s, there was a downside when several large diamonds – including three D-color stones ranging from 7.1 cts. to 18.43 cts. and several fancy yellow diamonds – failed to meet their reserve prices.

John Block, executive vice president of Sotheby’s, says he was pleased overall with the $30.2 million total for the sale, the sixth highest the auction house has achieved in New York. Nearly 78% of the lots sold, representing 68% of the expected dollar value. The 21.3-ct. pink diamond that didn’t sell was expected to bring more than $5 million, so that held down the total. “But we did see active participation throughout the sale from an international group of dealers and private collectors,” says Block.

The top buyers at Sotheby’s sale were the usual dealers: Fitaihi, London dealer Laurence Graff and Siba. Conspicuously absent from both auctions was Robert Mouawad, a dealer with offices in Switzerland and the Middle East.

Fitaihi was the top buyer at Christie’s, which turned in its highest New York total ever: $35 million with 79% of the lots selling, representing 82% of the expected dollar value.

In addition to the large blue diamond, Fitaihi paid $5.7 million for the 69.79-ct. D IF emerald-cut diamond that closed the sale. He also took a large number of other important lots. “This is the right time to buy for the Middle East market,” he says. “The economies of most nations are improving because of the new GATT [General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade] and the greater feeling of stability.”

Simon Teakle, who heads Christie’s New York jewelry department, says the sale shows the top end of the market “remains very resilient.” Franois Curiel, director of Christie’s jewelry worldwide, says too many large diamonds were offered this spring, but that strong prices for those that sold more than made up for those that didn’t.

The action in New York was hotter than in St. Moritz, Switzerland, where Christie’s holds its premier sale of the year. Curiel says that sale was “subdued,” with only 64% of the lots selling for a total of $8 million. “Italian buyers were absent because of their country’s political turmoil,” he says. “American buyers were discouraged because of the weak dollar, and there was little or no participation from Middle Eastern collectors.” Nevertheless, he says, top diamonds and signed pieces by major jewelry houses did sell very well.

This 13.49-ct. deep blue diamond brought more than $7.5 million from Middle East dealer Ahmed Fitaihi at Christie’s New York auction

A showcase in the new Movado Design Center includes several early pocket watches; the original Polyplan watches, featuring three-level movements and dating to 1912-1917; and a lighter/clock that winds itself each time the lighter is used. The showcase is part of a collection of 300 timepieces, 80-100 of which will be displayed at any one time at the Movado Design Center, 630 Fifth Ave. at Rockefeller Center, New York, N.Y. Bernhard Stoeber, vice president of technical and after-sales service for North American Watch Corp., parent and distributor of Movado, assembled the collection and is writing a book about the company to be published next year.

Traditional Jewelers in Newport Beach, Cal., was the fifth stop for Jaeger-LeCoultre’s “Reverso – The Living Legend” U.S. exhibition. The event, held March 3-12, began with a cocktail party. Guests toured the exhibition and were invited to participate in a drawing for a Reverso watch. Shown (from left) are Marion Halfacre, owner of Traditional Jewelers; Bo Bentley, winner of the Reverso; and Nancy Fox, vice president of Jaeger-LeCoultre USA.