Low-Key Hits: The New York Spring Auctions

Sales were subdued despite record-breaking totals and several noteworthy gems.

July 30, 2023  |  Anthony DeMarco
Auctions NY July August Magazine 1280 USED 073023

The spring auction season ended in June on a mostly quiet note, with a couple of important exceptions. The Sotheby’s and Christie’s sales in New York presented fewer lots than usual, and for the most part, the items sold within estimates.

While the market is “a little cooler than it was a year ago,” it still has strength, says Greg Kwiat, owner of diamond specialist Kwiat and CEO of estate jeweler Fred Leighton. “I think you saw sales comfortably within the estimates this time. There were fewer lots that went through the roof compared to a year ago.”

David Doppelt agrees. “The June sales were pretty subdued, I thought, although the sales were well curated,” says the president of jeweler Jonathan Doppelt. “It almost always seems to be the case that June brings…a lack of energy in general, and that sort of matched the sales.”

Sotheby’s: The red and the pink

The Sotheby’s Magnificent Jewels sale on June 8 provided most of the excitement with its two top lots: the 55.22-carat Estrela de Fura ruby, which sold for $34.8 million, and the fancy-vivid-purplish-pink, internally flawless Eternal Pink diamond, which remarkably attained the same sum.

At $630,288 per carat, the Estrela de Fura established a world-record total not only for a ruby, but for any colored gemstone at auction. It was also the largest ruby ever to go under the hammer. Its presale estimate was more than $30 million.

The ruby came from a 101-carat rough that Fura Gems unearthed at its mine in Montepuez, Mozambique. Instead of selling the rough gem through the trade, Fura founder and CEO Dev Shetty chose to take the stone to auction on his own. The idea was to promote the quality of rubies from Mozambique as similar to specimens from Burma (Myanmar), which has historically been considered the main source of high-quality rubies.

“When it comes to rubies, I think origin clearly matters in regard to value, but it’s not always the determinant of beauty,” comments Kwiat. “You can have gemstones from different origins that are considered secondary, and they can still produce beautiful gems…. I saw [this] gem, and the color was pretty extraordinary.”

Meanwhile, the 10.57-carat Eternal Pink’s total set a world auction record for a fancy-purplish-pink diamond, and so did its per-carat price of $3.3 million. Its presale estimate was $35 million. “It was a remarkable one-of-a-kind diamond,” states Doppelt. “That fancy-vivid purple-pink is the most sought-after color you can buy.”

This was the first time in auction history that two gems passed the $30 million mark at the same sale. Fueled by those two lots, the auction achieved $95.9 million — the highest jewelry total ever for Sotheby’s New York — with a 91% sell-through rate.

Christie’s: Van Cleef, Cartier, and Salvador Dalí

Christie’s held two sales in New York on June 7: The Magnificent Jewels of Anne Eisenhower, and the house’s traditional Magnificent Jewels sale. At both events, signed jewels shone, as did rubies.

All 31 lots in the Eisenhower sale found buyers. The top lot was a 1937 ruby and diamond Jarretière bracelet by Van Cleef & Arpels that fetched more than $4.5 million, just cresting its high estimate. The piece once belonged to early-20th-century actress and style icon Marlene Dietrich. The number-two lot was also a Van Cleef & Arpels piece: a ruby and diamond necklace that Eisenhower had commissioned specifically to match the bracelet.

“I always find single-owner sales interesting, to see the tastes and style of the individual collection and to marvel at their pieces,” Kwiat says. “The Marlene Dietrich bracelet achieved a very good price, and overall, it appeared to me it was a very successful sale.”

In all the New York auctions, the traditional jewelry houses continued to account for some of the most sought-after lots, he adds. Aside from Van Cleef & Arpels, Cartier stood out; all the sales featured several Panthère pieces, and many achieved prices above estimates. The Sotheby’s sale alone featured 24 Cartier jewels, seven of which were Panthère designs. The Eisenhower sale offered two yellow gold Panthère items.

“Van Cleef and Cartier continue to be the two strongest names in jewelry,” Kwiat says. “These prolific houses continue to show incredible strength.”

Also intriguing for Kwiat was an elaborate Étoile de Mer (Starfish) jewel by famed artist Salvador Dalí that fetched $982,800 at Christie’s. “It didn’t quite make the estimates, but it was quite a benchmark for an artist’s piece.”

Doppelt’s firm specializes in fancy-yellow diamonds, and he expresses enthusiasm for what appears to be a return of demand for these gems.

“Yellow diamonds really have had an incredible renaissance,” he remarks. “The demand…is as high as it has ever been. You don’t see them rising in price in astronomical ways, but you really can’t find what you’re looking for. I think they did well across the board. It was pretty competitive trying to buy anything in yellow. The best yellow diamonds don’t slip through the cracks.”

This article is from the July-August 2023 issue of Rapaport Magazine. View other articles here.

Image: The Eternal Pink, a cushion-cut, 10.57-carat, fancy-vivid-purplish-pink, internally flawless diamond. (Sotheby’s)


Auctions NY July August Magazine 1280 USED 073023 Low-Key Hits: The New York Spring Auctions

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