Auctions

AUCTION MARKET STRONG; HIGH RESERVES TAKE TOLL

The market for big diamonds and world-class jewelry was strong at the May auctions in Geneva, Switzerland. However, Christie’s and Sotheby’s saw their results compromised when several large pieces failed to sell. The reason: dealers demanded reserve (minimum) prices too high for the market to bear.

When reserve prices were conservative, buyers were willing to spend far more. Simon Teakle, who heads Christie’s jewelry department in New York, N.Y., says, “People may be put off by very high reserve prices, but they will often bid past that level if the initial reserve is much lower.”

Pieces that did sell included a 102.07-ct. intense yellow diamond set in a Cartier brooch (a buyer for American Siba Corp. paid $3 million, four to five times the presale estimate) and a 20.81-ct. D flawless diamond (a private buyer paid $1.4 million, 15% over the presale estimate).

At Sotheby’s, a buyer paid $3 million for a 36-ct. D flawless diamond, says jewelry director John Block. Several large colored diamonds also greatly exceeded their presale estimates.

Despite the pieces which didn’t sell, the houses racked up exceptional totals: $49.8 million for Christie’s (after a $41 million auction in New York City the previous month) and $42.3 million for Sotheby’s (after a $30 million total in New York.

CHRISTIE’S ACHIEVES TOP SALES IN HONG KONG

Christie’s April 29-30 auctions in Hong Kong took in $15.3 million, setting two records for sales of western jewelry in the Asian market.

“I am pleased to see that Hong Kong has joined New York and Geneva as a major international jewelry auction center,” says Francois Curiel, Christie’s international jewelry director, who flew to Hong Kong from Europe to conduct the auctions.

The Important Jewelry and Watches segment of the auctions brought in $7 million. One highlight was a 22.01-ct. marquise-cut D flawless diamond ring that sold for $884,520, making it the most expensive piece of western jewelry ever sold at an auction in Asia. The auction also featured a pair of emerald and diamond earrings, each set with an emerald drop of 22 cts., that sold for $713,830 and a suite of ruby and diamond jewelry by Van Cleef & Arpels that sold for $343,980.

The Magnificent Jadeite Jewelry segment of the auctions made history with a jadeite cabochon ring that attracted a top bid of $500,460. At $48,000 per carat, it is one of the most expensive cabochon jadeite rings ever sold at an auction. A jadeite and diamond bead necklace sold for $856,070.

“We were very pleased with the results of the sale,” says Edmond Chin, director of Christie’s Jewellery and Jadeite Jewellery Departments for Asia. “The western jewelry sale had attracted dealers and private buyers from all over the world, and many of the lots offered were sold well above the presale estimates.”

Christie’s will hold its next Important Jewelry and Watches auction in Hong Kong on Sept. 17, the eve of the Hong Kong Jewelry Fair. The next Jadeite Jewelry sale in Hong Kong will be held Nov. 5.

GLAMOUR + JEWELRY BRING STELLAR SALES

The romance of royalty and stardom attracted eager buyers to Christie’s auctions this spring in London and Los Angeles.

The London sale of Important Jewellery in June totaled $6.6 million and included rare diamonds from the Golconda mines of India and antique jewelry resembling the French Crown jewels. The top sale — a pair of rare antique Indian diamond briolettes weighing 18.40 cts. each and set in earrings — sold for $239,936, more than twice the presale estimate. These round “Indian cut” diamond beads have a long history, finding favor with grand duchesses in the 18th century and later appearing in the Russian Crown Jewels, the Iranian treasury and the Hope and Brunswick Collections.

An 8.50-ct. cushion-shaped diamond ring by Cartier sold for $205,990. The diamond is believed to have come from the now-exhausted Golconda mines of India. And an antique diamond cluster brooch, given to the wife of Sir George Baker, physician to George III, sold for $151,677. The brooch features a 10.58-ct. cushion-cut center diamond, cushion-cut diamond surround and rose-cut diamond points.

Royalty-inspired pieces included a diamond spray brooch and diamond and emerald bangle resembling jewelry made popular by Princess EugEnie, wife of Napoleon III of France. The brooch sold for $28,750 and the bangle for $52,100. That was just under the presale estimates in both cases, despite Christie’s expectations of strong bidding.

America’s own “royalty” stirred intrigue at the Los Angeles auction. Scheduled to coincide with the presentation of Hollywood’s Academy Awards, the auction brought a total of $2.5 million, with 99% of the lots finding buyers.

Movie star fever was in the air as crowds of people furiously bid for the jewels of Hollywood legend Eva Gabor. Sales from the Gabor collection alone totaled $600,000, including $59,000 for a diamond rose brooch by David Webb.

Also attracting attention were jewels from the estate of the Baroness von Bercht. Twenty-five pieces of period jewelry sold for a total of $347,000, nearly twice the presale estimate. One highlight was a pair of old-mine-cut diamonds of 9.75 and 11.78 cts. that sold for $90,600.