Christie’s 2007 Jewelry Sales Sparkle

Dominated by diamonds, jewelry sales at Christie’s auction house totaled close to $400 million in 2007, an increase of 11 percent over 2006 ($355 million), which was already up by 27 percent over a then record 2005 ($279 million).

Christie’s said its jewelry results are the highest ever achieved by any auction house.

“This year saw many milestones in the jewelry auction market,” said François Curiel, Christie’s chairman of Jewellery. “The magical barrier of $100,000 per carat was regularly broken for top colorless diamonds, while colored diamonds often sold for over $1 million per carat. These figures were unheard-of as little as five years ago. This mini-revolution took place in a booming market, fed by the participation of new collectors from Russia, China, and the Middle-East, and others bidding for the first time through the internet. There was also a major geographical re-alignment, as Hong Kong established itself firmly alongside Geneva and New York as a key international sale centre for exceptional jewels.”

Natural pearls, diamonds, colored and colorless, Kashmir sapphires, and contemporary jewels were the stars of 2007, breaking records on a scale that seasoned collectors could never imagine, Christie’s said.

There has also been a profound transformation in how auctions are marketed, with the arrival of new players from emerging markets, and the way they are conducted, with the introduction of Christie’s LIVETM. In both areas, Christie’s has been investing heavily, with exhibitions and auctions in Dubai, China, Russia, and the Ukraine, as well as new technology. A parallel development has been the strong increase in private sales. Several major gemstones were negotiated this way, in response to a growing demand for a service that offers access to precious stones unknown to the public, often straight from the mines, at very competitive prices.

Strong increases were seen across all continents:

• Asia: Sales totaled $86.4 million, a 7.5 percent increase year-over-year. With only two sales per year, the Asian results were the strongest on record, underscoring that Hong Kong now stands firmly alongside Geneva and New York as a major venue for extraordinary jewels, Christie’s said. The November sale totaled $47.3 million, making it the largest jewelry auction ever staged in Asia. This represents an increase of 14 percent over spring 2007 and 21 percent increase over autumn 2006. The most expensive jewel sold in Asia was a diamond briolette of 31.92 cts., D colour, Flawless, which went for more than $3.2 million (pictured). It was the largest diamond briolette to appear at auction in Asia, the company said.

“Christie’s Hong Kong has become the vibrant hub for jewelry in Asia,” said Vickie Sek, director of Jewellery & Jadeite for Christie’s in Asia. “Jadeite saw a remarkable resurgence, while colorless and rare colored diamonds, as well as precious stones, realized some of the highest prices achieved worldwide throughout the year.”

• The Americas: Sales totaled $120.1 million, an 8.8 percent increase year-over-year. For the second consecutive year, these results are the highest ever achieved in the U.S. jewelry auction market. The historic Baroda Pearls became the most expensive jewel sold at auction in the U.S. when they were purchased by an Asian collector for more than $7 million—a world auction record for any pearl jewel (poctured). A 22-ct. Kashmir sapphire that fetched more than $3 million became the most expensive sapphire in the world. The price of $135,000 per carat is a world record for any sapphire.

“The market continued to show immense confidence in superb diamonds and important gemstones,” said Rahul Kadakia, director of Jewellery for Christie’s Americas. “At the same time, 2007 marked a turning point for jewelry sales at Christie’s in the U.S. and at Christie’s worldwide where original design, rarity, and provenance proved to be just as important as the quality of a gem.”

• Europe sales totaled $186.8 million, up 14 percent year-over-year. Christie’s sales across Europe drew strong results. London posted its best year ever with sales of $47.2 million, up 19.2 percent year-over-year. In June a greyishblue diamond of 7.81 cts. fetched $5.1 million, setting at the time a world record for a blue diamond per carat at $655,480 per carat.

“The $3 million sale of the collection of Princess Maria Gabriella di Savoia, together with several major diamonds, have confirmed London’s position as a pre-eminent centre for outstanding jewelry.” said Raymond Sancroft-Baker, director of Jewellery for Christie’s Europe.

Highlights in the prime center of Geneva included a fancy purplish-red diamond of 2.26 cts. acquired by Laurence Graff for more than $2.6 million, a world auction record for a red diamond (pictured).

“Collectors showed ever-growing interest for signed jewelry and historical pieces, from the Fürstenberg and Donnersmarck collections to a pair of ear-pendants once part of The Imperial Russian Jewels and the pearl ring mounted by Cartier for the Duchess of Windsor. ” said Eric Valdieu, director of Jewellery for Christie’s
Switzerland.

• Sales in the Middle East totaled $28.3 million in 2007 where Dubai became a new auction center for jewelry at Christie’s. Following the success of its inaugural sale of contemporary jewels & watches in January, a second auction was held in November which drew buyers from not only the region, but also Southeast Asia, Russia, Europe, and the Americas.

“Dubai is all about dynamic sales of high value prestige jewels and watches,” said David Warren, director of Jewellery for Dubai and London. “Our auctions offer collectors a special focus on top contemporary designers like Lorenz Bäumer, Viran Bhagat and Carnet, as well as classics from the likes of Boucheron, Bulgari, Cartier, JAR, Van Cleef & Arpels and Winston, with unique gemstones and limited edition watches proving very popular. In our first year of sales in this vibrant new market, we are already witnessing an average lot value of over $100,000 with 5 lots surpassing the $1million mark.”

Christie’s remains the premier choice for private collectors, and 2007 again saw Christie’s presiding over the sale of many of the year’s most noteworthy collections:

Among industry trends, Christie’s said diamonds prices continue to rise with colored and colorless diamonds remain as show stoppers at every auction worldwide. Eight of the top 10 jewels sold at Christie’s in 2007 were diamonds.

Also, increased Activity from the Middle East, Russia, and China continue to be robust alongside strong participation from traditional buyers in the United States and Europe. Christie’s jewelry auctions were fuelled by the arrival of new collectors from emerging markets, particularly from Russian, Middle Eastern, and Chinese collectors.