US Magnificent Jewels Sales See Respectable Results

February 5, 2023  |  David Brough
SOTHEBY’S; christie’s

Legends of New York: From the Golden Canary to an array of pieces with dramatic histories, the auctions in the Big Apple turned out well despite a few misses.

Large colored diamonds, including the 303.10-carat, fancy-deep-brownish-yellow Golden Canary, stole the show at the New York Magnificent Jewels sales in December. Signed jewelry with provenance outperformed expectations, including a Van Cleef & Arpels brooch that once belonged to Argentine politician Eva Peron, and a Bulgari diamond ring previously owned by Italian actress Silvana Mangano.

In-person turnout was moderate at the live Christie’s and Sotheby’s sales — which took place on December 6 and 7, respectively — and many of those present were New York-based dealers. But even without large numbers of people physically attending, the auctions netted a combined total of more than $100 million, indicating that online bidding was gaining steam in the top tier of the market.

Good things come in pears

The Golden Canary led the Sotheby’s sale, going to a private collector in southeast Asia. Although the pear-shaped stone fell short of its $15 million low estimate, it managed to bring in $12.4 million — the third-highest price ever for a yellow diamond, according to the auction house, which had offered the stone without reserve.

“Yellow diamonds, for a couple of years, had been a little bit softer in the market,” remarked Quig Bruning, senior vice president and head of jewelry for the Americas at Sotheby’s. “When you have had a softening, you tend to have a rebound, and we saw that in spades [at the latest sale]. There is a lot of demand out there for large, impressive yellow diamonds.”

At Christie’s, sell-through percentages were “in the 90s” by both value and lot, according to international head of jewelry Rahul Kadakia. “When it comes to colored and colorless diamonds, they sold across the board…because we priced them in line with where the market is.”

The top lot in that sale was a pendant featuring the largest fancy-blue diamond ever to appear at auction, according to Christie’s. Weighing 31.62 carats, the pear-shaped stone sold to a private collector for $11.8 million, within estimates, Kadakia said.

Egyptian revivals and sunken ships

Antique-jewelry and gemstone dealers cited a growing interest in vintage items. As signed Art Deco jewels from the 1920s and ’30s become increasingly rare and expensive at auction, collectors are turning their attention to the more readily available designer jewelry from the era spanning the ’50s to the ’80s, the dealers reported. Big names — in terms of both jewelry houses and former owners — helped boost value.

“Signed jewels continue to drive the auctions,” said Bruning. “If it has a great name with it, it will achieve a great price.”

The Peron brooch and Mangano ring sold at Christie’s for $195,300 and $252,000 respectively, both of them surpassing their high estimates by over $100,000. At Sotheby’s, Bruning singled out a Lacloche Frères Egyptian revival bracelet from the 1920s, which sold within estimates at $1.2 million.

“Lacloche deserves to be in that top tier of jewelers,” he said. The maison’s designs drew inspiration from the “Egyptomania” that took hold in the Art Deco period after the discovery of King Tutankhamen’s tomb. Now, 100 years later, the resurgence of that fascination helped reinforce interest in the two Lacloche jewels at the sale.

Stories had a powerful influence on demand as well. One particularly intriguing lot at Sotheby’s was a ring featuring an emerald from the 1622 shipwreck of the Spanish galleon Atocha. The stone was recovered in a diving expedition off the coast of Florida, and the seller pledged to use the proceeds to help people in war-torn Ukraine. After fierce bidding, the ring soared past its $70,000 high estimate to garner a total of $1.2 million.

Sapphire power

The colored-gemstone offering at the New York sales was relatively light, redoubling the focus on diamonds and signed jewelry. The gems that fared best tended to be from particularly prized sources, and to have remarkable color and rarity.

“The results at New York luxury week underscored the resilience of the top end of the colored-gemstone market, led by continuing strong demand for Kashmir and Burmese sapphires, exceptional no-heat Burmese rubies, and no- or low-oil Colombian emeralds,” said New York-based gem dealer Joe Menzie.

“The jewelry pieces featuring world-class colored-gemstone centers continued to perform well [on] the collector market,” affirmed Larry Schaffer, sales director for the Americas at digital marketplace Gembridge.

Kadakia singled out Kashmir sapphires as among the top performers in colored gemstones, noting that “there are a lot fewer Kashmir sapphires in the market these days. You see old stones or old collections coming back to the market. This is what is making the prices.”

Image: Sotheby’s; Christie’s


SOTHEBY’S; christie’s US Magnificent Jewels Sales See Respectable Results

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