Christie’s has begun special jewelry auctions that carry no reserve prices (the minimum at which something will be sold). The first “Without Reserve” auction, held Nov. 15 in Geneva, Switzerland, was “very, very successful,” says François Curiel, Christie’s jewelry director.

Major auction houses traditionally set reserve prices in consultation with the owners of pieces up for sale. Usually, reserve prices are very close to the lower price estimate listed in auction catalogs.

But estates with major jewelry pieces often have smaller pieces that wouldn’t go into a Christie’s auction. The 195 lots in the Geneva sale, for example, generally were too small for the main “Magnificent Jewels” sale held two days later or not appropriate for the smaller period jewelry sales held between the big auctions. “Now we can offer the opportunity to sell them through Christie’s without reserve,” says Curiel.

There is a risk in offering jewelry this way, acknowledges Curiel. The top bid gets the piece – no matter how low it is. But the risk is minimal when the no-reserve sale is held in conjunction with a larger sale that attracts big buyers, he adds.

Curiel says the idea for no-reserve sales stemmed from client requests to return to the simpler format of earlier years. To distinguish these sales, Christie’s revived the pink catalog covers used in its headquarters London gallery earlier in this century.