November Swiss Auctions Exceed Expectations

February 5, 2023  |  David Brough
Christie’s; Sotheby's

Geneva achievers: The latest sales reinforced luxury jewelry as a port in the storm of economic turbulence.

Exceptionally rare signed jewelry and extraordinary colored diamonds and gemstones exceeded estimates at the Geneva Magnificent Jewels sales in November, underscoring the strength of the market’s highest end during uncertain and inflationary times.

Christie’s held its auction in the Swiss city on November 8, garnering a total of CHF 56.6 million ($57.3 million). The Sotheby’s sale, which took place the next day, totaled CHF 49.4 million ($50 million).

“Given the current economic climate, the finest-quality jewelry and gemstones made gravity-defying prices, but only providing that the presale estimate was set at market-acceptable levels,” observed Matthew Girling, founder of the Matthew Girling Consultancy and former global CEO of Bonhams.

With inflation soaring, diamonds and gems have significant value as investments, commented Rahul Kadakia, international head of jewelry at Christie’s. “Right now, we are in a very balanced space in the market where you are able to purchase colorless diamonds, colored diamonds and colored gemstones…and to use them as a hedge against everything going on in the world.”

Best of the best

The highest result for a single lot between the two auctions was the 18.18-carat Fortune Pink diamond, which sold at Christie’s for CHF 28.4 million ($28.9 million), within estimates. The piece went “to an Asian private customer,” said Kadakia, calling the achieved price “a very healthy result.”

At Sotheby’s, the top lot was a pair of unmounted oval, D-flawless, type IIa diamonds weighing 20.03 and 20.19 carats respectively, which fell within estimates at approximately $4.2 million. That sale’s star lots also included two Cartier rings: one with a Burmese sapphire weighing 20.16 carats, and the other featuring a rare white diamond of 33.13 carats. The former fetched approximately $2.8 million, above its $2 million high estimate, while the latter was well within estimates at just under $2.9 million.

“The sapphire ring featured one of the best Burmese sapphires that we have seen recently,” stated Olivier Wagner, head of jewelry at Sotheby’s Geneva. “It was a royal-blue color, really clean, well laid-out. We don’t see these kinds of stones very often; they are extremely, extremely rare. The demand for this kind of sapphire has increased.”

Signed pieces by top maisons such as Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Bulgari, and Harry Winston outperformed expectations, including some Alexandre Reza items at Christie’s.

“There are a lot of colored diamonds in the Reza jewelry, and colored diamonds are in general doing very well,” Kadakia said.

Art Deco pieces were strong in the signed category. One such piece was a Cartier diamond bracelet (lot 60) that garnered CHF 239,400 ($242,223) at Christie’s, soaring past its CHF 160,000 (approximately $161,880) high estimate.

“In my opinion, Art Deco was the best period of jewelry manufacturing in terms of design, in terms of stone selection, and the flexibility that the houses had in using all kinds of materials,” said Kadakia. “There is not a lot of it available anymore.”

Diamond highlights

Among the diamond jewelry at Sotheby’s was the Mouawad Empress (lot 349), a ring featuring a pear-shaped, fancy-vivid-yellow diamond of 37.50 carats. The piece netted $2.4 million, within estimates. Wagner called the stone “very impressive,” noting that “it sold for a strong price for a vivid-yellow.”

Despite the success of this and other high-value diamonds at the sale, a 5.53-carat, fancy-blue diamond that was part of the De Beers Exceptional Blue collection failed to find a buyer.

“The blue is an exceptional stone in every sense; it attracted significant interest prior to today’s sale,” Sotheby’s stated after the sale. “While we didn’t get to see it sell in the room tonight, we are confident it will find a new home very soon.”

Gems aplenty

Colored gemstones saw excellent results in both auctions. One standout at Sotheby’s was a sapphire and diamond brooch from the 1950s (lot 348). Its center stone was a cushion-shaped, 92.01-carat pink sapphire mounted by Jean Schlumberger. The piece more than tripled its CHF 500,000 (approximately $505,900) high estimate, surging to a total of CHF 1.7 million ($1.8 million).

“Any good-quality gems did well at the auction, including imperial topaz, emerald, ruby, sapphire and more,” said Myint-Myint Thein, a London-based antique-jewelry and gem dealer.

Consultant and diamond expert Marijan Dundek echoed that sentiment. “Exquisite colored gemstones were very much in demand [at both the Christie’s and Sotheby’s sales], particularly rare Kashmir sapphires.”

Image: Christie’s; Sotheby’s


Christie’s; Sotheby's November Swiss Auctions Exceed Expectations

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