Just six months after Christie’s Geneva set an auction record for total sales at a Magnificent Jewels Sale of SFr.138,963,250 on May 14, 2014, the feat has been repeated again at the same venue by Christie’s Geneva at its November 11, 2014 autumn sale, setting a new auction record of SFr.147,256,875 for total sales at a Magnificent Jewels sale. The auction that sold 89% by lot and 94% by value, and projected to achieve SFr.73 million, surpassed all expectations and realized a record sales total of SFr 147 million, which was double the estimated total. Christie’s announced that this is the highest total ever realized at a jewelry auction. Over 600 registered bidders from over 30 countries participated in this record-breaking autumn sale.
Top selling lot at the auction was Lot 348, The Blue Belle of Asia, a cushion-cut Ceylon sapphire weighing 392.52 carats set in a spectacular sapphire and diamond neckace, that sold for US$17.3 million which was 2.6 times the lower pre-sale estimate of US$6.65 million and 1.8 times the upper estimate of US$9.5 million. This was a world record price for any sapphire sold at an auction as well as a world record price for a Ceylon blue sapphire sold at an auction. The blue sapphire, the 4th-largest faceted blue sapphire in the world, was discovered as an enormous rough stone in 1926, in the paddy fields of Pelmadulla, in the Ratnapura (City of Gems) district of Sri Lanka, and was acquired by the famous gem and jewelry dealers of Sri Lanka, Messrs. O.L.M. Macan Markar Co. Ltd. The Company got the enormous rough stone cut and polished by the traditional Moor gem-cutters of Sri Lanka, and sold the gem in 1937 to the British motor magnate Lord Nuffield, the founder of Morris Motors Ltd. The “Blue Belle of Asia” eventually fell into private hands and its whereabouts were not known for the next 35 years until 1972, when the famous Swiss-based gem dealer Theodore Horovitz had the opportunity to examine the sapphire and make drawings and notes on the rare sapphire. The sapphire again disappeared for the next 42 years and has now reappeared again, making its first public appearance after 77 years at Chistie’s Geneva Magnificent Jewels Sale on November 11, 2014. The sapphire was certified by SSEF and GGL as of Ceylon origin, with no indications of heating and a combination of outstanding characteristics such as a saturated even medium rich bue color, characteristic of Ceylon sapphires and extraordinary translucency and clarity. Christie’s did not reveal either the identity of the anonymous private collector who owned the “Blue Belle of Asia” or the identity of the private collector who was present in person to bid for the enormous Ceylon sapphire. However, many jewels that went under the hammer at the Geneva magnificent jewels sale it was reported came from the estate of a late wealthy Saudi collector.
The next highest lot at the sale was Lot 392 – A pair of colored diamond and diamond ear pendants by Bulgari – which sold slightly above the pre-sale estimate of US$12 – 15 million for US$16 million, was purchased by London’s luxury jeweller Laurence Graff, also known as the “KIng of DIamonds.” Each ear-pendant of the Bulgari masterpiece had a cluster top made of seven marquise and pear-shaped, colorless diamonds from which the detachable pear-shaped fancy vivid blue or pink diamond was suspended. The blue and pink diamonds had a matching shape and size and weighed respectively 6.95 carats and 6.79 carats and both had the same color-grade of fancy-vivid. GIA certified that the 6.95-carat, pear-shaped, fancy-vivid blue, SI2-carity diamond is Type IIb and 6.79-carat, pear-shaped, fancy-vivid pink, VS2-clarity diamond is Type IIa.
The third highest selling lot at the auction was Lot 311 – A Colored Diamond Ring – which sold for US$6.2 million, 1.8 times the upper estimate of US$3.5 million and 2.5 times the lower estimate of US$2.5 million. The platinum and gold ring was set with a 15.62-carat, fancy-pink, VS1-clarity diamond with a rare kite brilliant-cut. The GIA report that certified these characteristics was also accompanied by a letter stating that the diamond is Type IIa and a working diagram indicating that the clarity of the diamond is potentially internally flawless.
The next highest selling lot at the auction with a provenance as old as the “Blue Belle of Asia” and coincidentally sold by its designers Cartier of Paris to His Highness the Maharao Shri Khengarji III (1866-1942) of Kutch in the same year 1937 as the Blue Belle of Asia was sold to Lord Nuffield, is the 23.66-carat, oval-cut “Queen of Burma” Ring. The Art Deco platinum ring bearing Lot No. 337 was titled An Exceptional Ruby And Diamond Ring by Cartier. The centerpiece of this ring was a claw-set 23.66-carat, oval-cut, Mogok ruby. The claws of the ring are covered with inverted baguette-cut diamonds. The shoulders of the ring are set with triangular-shaped diamonds. Two lab reports by SSEF and GGL certified the Burmese origin of the stone with no indications of heating. SSEF further stated that “The rarity of this ruby ring lies not only in the beauty, quality and Burmese origin of the ruby, but certainly also in the historic provenance of this jewellery item. This makes the ‘Queen of Burma’ ruby ring a very exceptional treasure.” GGL in addition stated that “this ruby displays a richly saturated and homogeneous pink-red colour. Together with its high transparency, the fine cut and proportions of this stone provide a high brilliancy and numerous reflections.” A pre-sale estimate of US$5.5-6.9 million was placed on the lot, which sold within the estimate for US$6.1 million, the second world record price for a Burma ruby sold at an auction after the 32.08-carat, cushion-cut Hope ruby from the Lily Safra collection that sold for US$6.7 million at Christie’s Geneva on May 14, 2012.
Lot 326 – An Important Diamond Necklace – was the next highlight of the sale based on the price registered, selling above the pre-sale estimate of US$3-5 million for US$5.7 milion. The 40 cm platinum fringe necklace, consists of a pear-shaped and brilliant-cut diamond line, suspending a fringe of vari-cut diamond clusters, with pear-shaped diamond terminals, the largest detachable one weighing 20.20 carats. GIA certified that the 20.20-carat pear-shaped diamond is D-color, internally flawless clarity, Type IIa diamond. The other six pear-shaped diamonds weighing 7.16, 6.52, 5.48, 5.47, 4.75 and 4.68 carats are all Type IIa, D colour, VVS1 clarity but potentially internally flawless diamonds. The diamond necklace was purchased by representatives of Middle-Eastern trade.
Jewels from major collections also realized exceptional prices such as Lot 391 – An Art Deco Natural Pearl and Diamond Necklace – from the private collection of the Baroness Edouard de Rothschild which sold for US$5,272,870, more than seven times the lower estimate of US$690,000 and more than five times the upper estimate of US$990,000. The necklace of Indian inspiration is composed of two rows of pear-shaped and old-mine cut diamond links, suspending at the front two near-spherical natural pearl pendants with dimensions of 16.0 x 15.9 mm and 16.3 x 15.8 mm. SSEF certified the natural saltwater origin of the pearls and commented that a matching pair of natural pearls of this size and quality is very rare and exceptional, and thus this pair of pearls can be considered a very exceptional treasure of nature.’ The Art Deco necklace was purchased by dealers of the Midde-Eastern trade.
Lot 267 – An Impressive Colored DIamond Necklace – the property of a private collector, also did well at the auction, selling above the estimated range of US$2.5-3.5 million for US$4.2 million. The front of the necklace is set with five yellow, cushion-cut diamonds, the central large diamond weighing 53.09 carats; the first matching pair on either side of the central diamond weighing 35.58 carats and 34.13 carats; and the second matching pair on either side of the central diamond weighing 17.25 carats and 17.17 carats. Each of the cushion-cut diamonds is surrounded by a row of brilliant-cut colored diamonds. The rear of the neckace is a flowerhead link neckchain also set with colored diamonds, mounted in yellow gold. The five large diamonds are certified by GIA as natural yellow diamonds.
A collection of seven jewels by JAR also featured prominently at the auctions, and it was reported that the renowned designer himself was personally in attendance at the sale. JAR watched in silent approval as six of his seven much-coveted lots registered astronomical figures, fetching prices much above the estimated range. The highest selling lot out of JAR’s seven jewels was Lot 305 – A Gold, Diamond and Green Garnet “Parrot Tulip” Bangle. Several bidders vied for this JAR’s masterpiece, which was eventually sold for a staggering US$3,649,493, which was 18.5 times the lower estimate of US$197,709 and 12 times the upper estimate of US$301,767. This was the second highest price registered by a JAR creation at a public auction. The bangle designed as a sculpted gold ‘parrot tulip’ flower, has two petals at the base, forming a hinged cuff. The gold petals are enhanced in certain areas by single-cut diamonds and circular-cut green garnets. The ‘parrot tulip’ flower bangle designed in 1994 was the property of an anonymous lady collector and had a size of 9.5 cm. The new owner of the bangle also preferred to remain anonymous.
The second highest selling lot of the JAR jewels was lot 386 – A DIamond Gardenia Ring – which sold for US$1,744,509 which was more than 5 times the lower estimate of US$322,579 and 4.5 times the upper estimate of US$385,013. The Gardenia Ring naturally and realistically designed in the characteristic style of JAR in 2004, is entirely pave-set with brilliant-cut diamonds, set in silver and gold. The ring once belonged to Ellen Barkin and was sold at an auction in 2006 for only one-third of the present price realized, clearly indicating the premium values attached to creations by JAR, by collectors.
Duchess of Windsor jewelry have not lost their magical charm and occasional pieces that appear at public auctions from time to time, usually generate a bidding battle. Lot 327 – A Cartier Tiger Brooch and Bracelet – that was once in the collection of the Duchess of Windsor and owned by Sarah Brightman was no exception. The legendary piece of jewel generated an intense bidding battle between collectors in the auction room and on the telephone, until the hammer was finally brought down at a much enhanced US$3,138,848 which was 1.8 times the lower estimate of US$1,768,979 and 1.3 times the upper estimate of US$2,497,382. The tiger jewels are set with colored diamonds, diamonds, onyx and emeralds and designed by Cartier in 1959. The bracelet is realistically designed as a tiger encircling the wrist, with its body, tail and paws entirely pavé-set with brilliant-cut yellow and colourless diamonds, interspersed with buff top onyx stripes; the head further set with onyx nose and marquise-shaped emerald eyes, with the concealed clasp. The matching clip brooch modelled as a tiger in repose is similarly set with yellow diamonds, diamonds, onyx and emeralds. Sarah Brightman announced that she intends to offer a portion of the proceeds from the sale to The Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation.