An attempt by Merrill Lynch to sell Ralph Esmerian’s private collection of jewels at Christie’s New York was again stopped by court order, ending a two-day legal battle between the financial management and advisory company and the owner of Fred Leighton. Meanwhile, a jewelry sale Wednesday at Christie’s took in nearly $50 million.
The auction, with an estimated value of $34 million, was first scheduled to be held April 15 at Christie’s New York, then the following day, as Merrill Lynch and Esmerian sparred in court over the sale.
The sale was being held to pay back part of a $178 million loan made by Merrill Lynch to the jeweler so he could purchase Fred Leighton, according to media reports. Esmerian, 68, argued that the jewels would bring more money if they were sold privately.
The latest ruling in Esmerian’s favor came after a U.S. bankruptcy court hearing on Wednesday, Bloomberg News reports.
“After 2 days of court hearings, the sale of Rare Jewels and Gemstones could not take place, after a decision from the New York Bankruptcy Court,” a statement from Christie’s reads. “We were obviously disappointed not to proceed with the auction, but proud to have been selected as the auctioneers for this marvelous collection. Meanwhile, the traditional auction alone achieved $49.8 million, 88 percent sold by lot, 95 percent in value, with 10 top lots fetching above a $1 million and new benchmark reached for diamonds over 20 carats.”
The star of the “traditional” auction was a 39.34-ct. unmounted cushion-cut diamond (pictured) that fetched nearly $6.9 million. Other highlights of the auction included a 27.91-ct. rectangular cut D color potentially flawless diamond by Harry Winston that fetched nearly $4.1 million, and a 21.90-ct. pear-shaped D color, potentially flawless diamond ring, also by Harry Winston.