Auction News

One for the Record Books: Jewels at Auction in 2014

Sotheby’s Geneva will hold its autumn sale of Magnificent Jewels and Noble Jewels on 12 November 2014

Continued from Diamonds at Auction in 2014

Outside of diamonds, the favorite triumvirate of gems also performed well this year. Rubies and sapphires pulled in record prices throughout 2014. In April, Sotheby’s Hong Kong set a new world auction record for a ruby when it sold a 29.62-carat Burmese ruby ring mounted by Cartier for $7.3 million. That record held for just eight months as the famed Graff Ruby – an 8.62-carat Burmese ruby with notable provenance – came up for auction a second time at Sotheby’s Geneva. Laurence Graff purchased the stone he previously owned for $8.6 million, setting a new record for a ruby as well as a record price per carat for a ruby at $997,727 per carat. Graff first acquired the stone at a Christie’s auction in 2006, paying $3,621,000 – then the highest price ever for a ruby.

Sotheby's sells the Graff Ruby for $8.6 million, setting a new record for a ruby at auction. (Photo courtesy of Sotheby's)

Sotheby’s sells the Graff Ruby for $8.6 million, setting a new record for a ruby at auction. (Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s)

For sapphires, new records were set for any sapphire, a Kashmir and price per carat for any sapphire. The fourth largest faceted sapphire in the world, the 392.52-carat Ceylon sapphire the “Blue Belle of Asia” sold for $17.3 million at Christie’s Geneva in November, setting the new world auction record for any sapphire. Also in November, Sotheby’s Geneva sold a 27.54-carat Kashmir for $5.98 million – a new record for a Kashmir sapphire. As for the new price per carat record, the 17.16-carat Imperial Kashmir sapphire broke the $200,000 per carat barrier as it sold for just over $4 million, or $236,404 per carat, at Sotheby’s Hong Kong in October.

The Blue Belle of Asia, a Ceylon sapphire weighing 392.52 carats, is shown by a Christie's employee. (Photo courtesy of Christie's)

The Blue Belle of Asia, a Ceylon sapphire weighing 392.52 carats, is shown by a Christie’s employee. (Photo courtesy of Christie’s)

While no new records were set by emeralds this year, Tom Burstein of Christie’s believes that the prized green beryl is one to keep an eye on in 2015. Extraordinary emeralds have joined the ranks of rare rubies and sapphires with prices surpassing the $100,000 per carat milestone. At Christie’s Hong Kong in May, a 28.88-carat Muzo Colombian emerald and diamond ring sold for more than $4.1 million, or $143,750 per carat. As customers become ever more educated about gems, the emeralds that will command the highest prices must have the coveted Classic Colombian descriptor on their certifications with faint to no oil treatment, says Burstein.

An Important Emerald and Diamond Ring

An Important 28.88-carat Colombian Emerald and Diamond Ring (Photo courtesy of Christie’s)

Jadeite and natural pearls also had a strong year, pulling in a few records of their own. The Hutton-Mdivani jadeite bead necklace by Cartier proved how the powerful combination of prestigious provenance and rare perfection of material can achieve unprecedented prices at auction. Purchased by the Cartier Collection, the highly coveted necklace sold for $27.4 million and set world auction records for jadeite jewelry and for a Cartier jewel.

Barbara Hutton wearing the jadeite bead necklace (left) and the necklace itself (right). Cartier purchased the necklace for a record $27.4 million. (Photo courtesy of the Cartier Collection)

Barbara Hutton wearing the jadeite bead necklace (left) and the necklace itself (right). Cartier purchased the necklace for a record $27.4 million. (Photo courtesy of the Cartier Collection)

For natural pearls, the rarity of near perfect specimens continues to drive prices higher for the finest examples. This year witnessed a more discerning pool of buyers who fought for the best natural pearls – in shape, color and luster – rather than just any natural pearl. In June at Doyle New York, a world auction record for a pair of natural pearls was set by the sale of Empress Eugenie’s natural pearl and diamond brooch, which fetched $3.3 million.

This diamond and natural pearl pendant sold for $3.3 million at Doyle New York, setting a new record for a pair of natural pearls (Photo courtesy of Doyle New York)

This diamond and natural pearl pendant sold for $3.3 million at Doyle New York, setting a new record for a pair of natural pearls (Photo courtesy of Doyle New York)

Lastly, the realm of signed jewelry enjoyed increased demand for the rare and one-of-a-kind from the most respected jewelry houses and designers worldwide. Jewels by Paris-based designer JAR continue to be the most coveted around, achieving prices that routinely shatter their estimates. “For every jewelry auction, we [at Christie’s] receive requests about what JAR pieces are in the sale,” according to Burstein. “JAR is one person, one designer with extremely limited supply and a very high demand. Not everyone has access to his work directly, so auctions are the best place to purchase his jewelry.” (For more about the success of JAR jewels at auction, click here.)

Lily Safra's Camellia flower bracelet sold for a second at Christie's in December, fetching $797,000. (Photo courtesy of Christie's)

Lily Safra’s Camellia flower bracelet sold for a second at Christie’s in December, fetching $797,000. (Photo courtesy of Christie’s)

For Burstein, Van Cleef & Arpels is the most desired name at auction overall. The French jewelry firm produced fewer pieces than its rival Cartier in the 20th century and also created a wide variety of designs that are much more unique from one another. However, Art Deco jewels by Cartier remain the venerable favorites, commanding record prices the more special the piece is. At Sotheby’s December sale in New York, an Art Deco Tutti Frutti bracelet by Cartier, New  York, circa 1928, formerly in the collection of Evelyn Lauder, sold for $2,165,000 – a new record for a Cartier Tutti Frutti bracelet. My favorite, and perhaps the most breathtaking, Cartier piece to sell this year was the Belle Époque diamond devant-de-corsage brooch circa 1912 that fetched nearly $17.6 million at Christie’s Geneva in May.

Christie's sold this Belle Époque Devant-de-Corsage brooch by Cartier in May for nearly $17.9 million. (Photo courtesy of Christie's)

Christie’s sold this Belle Époque Devant-de-Corsage brooch by Cartier in May for nearly $17.9 million. (Photo courtesy of Christie’s)

Not far behind the two French firms, Bulgari comes in at a close third with its jewels fetching higher and higher prices at auction this year. The Italian house’s most iconic jewel, the Serpenti watch bracelet, has proven its mettle next to other house’s hallmark pieces as a new record for one was set in June at Christie’s London. A rare enamel and diamond Serpenti watch-bracelet, by Bulgari, circa 1965, sold for $1.1 million.

A rare enamel and diamond wristwatch designed by Bulgari in 1965 was sold for $1.1 million at Christie's in London, setting a new record for a Bulgari serpenti watch. (Photo courtesy of Christie's)

A rare enamel and diamond wristwatch designed by Bulgari in 1965 was sold for $1.1 million at Christie’s in London, setting a new record for a Bulgari serpenti watch. (Photo courtesy of Christie’s)

Overall, the year started strong with unprecedented sales in the spring: roughly 20 new world auction records were made between April and May this year with six of the ten most expensive jewels sold at auction in the first half of 2014. With just nine records set in the fall, the second half of 2014 was no less exciting as the Zoe Diamond pulled in the biggest number of year at $32.6 million. The astronomical prices setting new records fall in line with the ultra-wealthy investing their money in assets outside of the traditional financial markets or real estate. “In fact, experts say global unrest may be driving even more money into hard assets and collectibles like diamonds, art, wine and vintage cars, and could push prices even higher,” according to CNBC article published in October. As we begin the New Year, 2015 could be a watershed year for jewelry auctions and record prices.

Here is a complete list of the auction records set in 2014:

Auction House Location Sale Date Record Jewel Price (USD) PPC Still Held?
Sotheby’s Hong Kong 4/7/2014 WAR for Jadeite Jewelry & for a Cartier Jewel Hutton-Mdivani Necklace 27,441,026 n/a Yes
Sotheby’s Hong Kong 4/7/2014 WAR for Ruby & Diamond Necklace Red Emperor Necklace 9,923,077 n/a Yes
Sotheby’s Hong Kong 4/7/2014 WAR for a Ruby 29.62 carat Burmese mounted by Cartier 7,338,462 247,754 No
Sotheby’s Hong Kong 4/7/2014 WAR PPC for round colorless diamond 28.86 D Flawless round brilliant 6,907,692 239,352 No
Sotheby’s New York 4/29/2014 WAR PPC for Any Sapphire 28.18 Kashmir 5,093,000 180,731 No
Sotheby’s Geneva 5/13/2014 WAR PPC for round colorless diamond 25.32 D IF Type IIa round brilliant 6,246,702 246,710 Yes
Sotheby’s Geneva 5/13/2014 WAR for a yellow diamond & for jewel by Graff Graff Vivid Yellow – FV Yellow 100.09 carats VS2 16,347,847 163,331 Yes
Sotheby’s Geneva 5/13/2014 WAR PPC for Fancy Pink diamond 12.07 Fancy Pink diamond IF 7,256,816 601,228 Yes
Sotheby’s Geneva 5/13/2014 WAR PPC for Fancy Light Pink diamond 10.11 FL Pink diamond VS2 3,973,944 393,071 Yes
Sotheby’s Geneva 5/13/2014 WR for jewelry sale 143,135,770 n/a No
Christie’s Geneva 5/14/2014 WR for jewelry sale 154,193,622 n/a Yes
Christie’s Geneva 5/14/2014 WAR PPC for Blue Diamond Winston Blue – 13.22 FV Blue, Flawless 23,795,372 1,799,953 No
Christie’s Geneva 5/14/2014 WAR for a Light Pink Diamond 76.51 Light Pink VVS1 10,000,825 130,712 Yes
Christie’s Geneva 5/14/2014 WAR for a FV Blue-Green Diamond Ocean Dream – 5.50 FV BG diamond SI1 8,633,798 1,569,781 Yes
Christie’s Geneva 5/14/2014 WAR for an Alexandrite 21.41 Russian Alexandrite 1,300,000 60,719 Yes
Christie’s Geneva 5/14/2014 WAR for a pink sapphire 49.04 pink sapphire 2,000,000 40,783 Yes
Christie’s Hong Kong 5/27/2014 WAR for pair of diamond ear pendants 25.49 & 25.31 D Flawless Type IIa 9,740,736 191,746 Yes
Christie’s Hong Kong 5/27/2014 WAR for an Fancy Intense Green diamond 6.13 FI Green VS2 3,644,352 594,510 Yes
Christie’s London 6/4/2014 WAR price for Bulgari Serpenti watch Rare Enamel & Diamond Serpenti, Bulgari, 1965 1,107,038 n/a Yes
Doyle New York 6/12/2014 WAR for pair of natural pearls Empress Eugenie Natural Pearls in Brooch 3,300,000 n/a Yes
Sotheby’s Hong Kong 10/7/2014 WAR for Fancy Vivid Pink Diamond 8.41 FV Pink Flawless 17,768,041 2,112,728 Yes
Sotheby’s Hong Kong 10/7/2014 WAR PPC for any Sapphire Imperial Kashmir – 17.16 Kashmir 4,056,701 236,404 Yes
Christie’s Geneva 11/11/2014 WAR for Any Sapphire Blue Belle of Asia – 392.52 Ceylon 17,295,796 44,063 Yes
Sotheby’s Geneva 11/12/2014 WAR for a ruby & PPC for a ruby Graff Ruby – 8.62 carats 8,600,410 997,727 Yes
Sotheby’s Geneva 11/12/2014 WAR for a Kashmir Sapphire 27.54 Kashmir 5,984,474 217,301 Yes
Sotheby’s New York 11/21/2014 WAR for a blue diamond & PPC for any diamond 9.75 FV Blue VVS2 32,645,000 3,348,205 Yes
Sotheby’s New York 12/9/2014 WAR for Tutti Frutti Bracelet by Cartier Lauder Tutti Frutti Bracelet by Cartier 2,165,000 n/a Yes

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