Auctions

FITAIHI PURCHASES PACE SPRING AUCTIONS

The spring auction season closed on a high note with Sotheby’s and Christie’s reporting strong sales in New York City in June after successful sales in Geneva the month before.

Sotheby’s June 7 auction of fine jewelry totaled $4.56 million, with nearly 83% of the lots selling. Christie’s took in $3.6 million with 75% of the lots selling. (Christie’s says the total was 28% above its June 1994 auction.)

Executives of both houses say the figures reflect gathering strength in the market for top jewelry and gems. However, some observers point out that much of the buying was by one dealer, Sheikh Ahmed Fitaihi of Saudi Arabia. Fitaihi bought half of the top lots and many other pieces at both auctions.

At Christie’s, Fitaihi bought 36% of all lots, says Simon Teakle, jewelry director. Among his purchases were a 10.27-ct. diamond for $74,000, and a ring with three diamonds for $59,700.

At Sotheby’s, he bought “a wide variety of beautiful pieces and continues to participate at all levels, including fine antique jewelry, colored gems and diamond jewelry,” says John Block, executive vice president and head of the jewelry department. Among his purchases were several large diamonds in Art Deco settings, including a Tiffany & Co. diamond bracelet for $79,500.

The highlight of the Sotheby’s sale was a Kashmir sapphire and diamond ring owned by actress and socialite Eleanor Robison Belmont. A European dealer paid $266,500, more than double the presale estimate.

June also was a good month for jewelry sales at Skinner Inc. in Boston. The auction house sold a large strand of South Seas pearls for $162,000 to a local buyer and a 9.75-ct. emerald-cut diamond for $81,000 to an unnamed buyer.

LALIQUE FIREBIRD SELLS FOR $28,750

A mythical firebird by René Lalique drew a top bid of $28,750 before a standing-room-only crowd at the annual Lalique sale at William Doyle Galleries in New York City in June. A Texas collector bought the firebird, a clear and frosted glass plaque made around 1922. The presale estimate was $25,000-$35,000.

The sale featured 300 lots from three generations of the Lalique family. The earliest piece was an 1899 drawing for a gold and enamel ring. A Japanese buyer paid $4,025 for the drawing, which depicts swan motifs on the ring. The drawing was shown in Art et Decoration magazine in 1899 and was considered lost until found in Paris three years ago. The ring for which the design was made has never surfaced.

Vases also proved popular at the sale. “Perrucha,” a circa 1919 opalescent glass vase patterned with parakeets, sold for $8,337. “Bacchantes,” a vase featuring female nudes, brought $7,187.