The first Magnificent Jewels sale of the season proved to be less than stellar as Sotheby’s Hong Kong Magnificent Jewels & Jadeite sale achieved a total of $37.5 million – just over a third of the sale’s $99 million estimate. The disappointing results echo the current economic state of the world and its effect on wealthy buyers.
China’s recent sharper-than-expected economic slowdown has had the most notable effect on the high-end jewelry market, while recent reports show that Chinese demand for large diamonds and high-end pieces has softened in conjunction with Beijing’s campaign against corruption and conspicuous consumption. Additional hits on buying power have resulted from a Russian ruble worth 40% less than the previous year; a dramatic drop in oil prices; and a weakened Euro against the Swiss Franc and strengthening U.S. Dollar.
As for what this sale’s results mean for the industry as a whole, only time and the remaining sales of this season will tell, but I do not suspect this is an isolated event.
Of the 21 lots with high estimates over $1million, only eight of them sold, the most noteworthy of which include:
- A rare pair of jadeite bangles (est. $1.9 – 2.2 million) sold for $2.18 million
- A pair of diamond pendant earrings set with D, Flawless 12.87 and D, IF 12.77-carat round brilliant diamonds (est. $2.3 – 2.8 million) sold for $2.56 million
- An 11.21-carat Kashmir sapphire and diamond ring (est. $1.5 – 1.9 million) sold for $2.1 million.
- A diamond necklace, by Bulgari, circa 1950s (est. $1 – $1.2 million) sold for $1.68 million.
The most surprising pieces, which accounted for many of the sale’s highlights, that did not sell were:
- A 77.77-carat Fancy Vivid yellow diamond (est. $6.8 – 7.7 million)
- A heart-shaped 4.57-carat Fancy Vivid pink diamond and diamond ring, mounted by Carvin French (est. $6.2 – 7.1 million)
- A pair of earrings featuring a 4.01-carat Fancy Intense purple-pink diamond and a 3.72-carat Fancy Intense purplish-pink diamond (est. $6.2 – 7.1 million)
- A 5.59-carat Fancy Intense purple-pink diamond and diamond ring (est. $4.5 – 6.2 million)
- An exceptional jadeite bead and diamond necklace (est. $5.8 – 7.1 million)
- A pair of Burmese ruby and diamond pendant ear clips, by Bulgari (est. $4.5 – 5.2 million)
Though the sale on a whole fell short of its expectations, there were some bright spots throughout. Pieces with estimates under $100,000 faired well particularly signed jewels under $50,000. My favorite lot in the sale, an emerald drop and diamond collar necklace, by Boucheron, circa 1930s, did sell, achieving a total just over its estimate at $474,646.
Next up is Christie’s Magnificent Jewels auction in New York on April 16th, where hopefully the market is warmer than it was in Hong Kong today.