As predicted Sotheby’s Geneva May 12, 2015, Magnificent Jewels and Noble Jewels Sale turned out to be a memorable auction for more than one reason. The auction achieved the highest total ever for any jewelry auction of US$160.9 million (CHF149.9 million), exceeding the previous record of US$154.2 million (CHF141.3 million) set at Christie’s Geneva Magnificent Jewels Sale on May 14, 2014. The auction also set several other world auction records, out of which the most significant and stunning record was the one set by the 25.59-carat “Sunrise Ruby” that sold for US$30.3 million (CHF28.3 million), a world record not only for a ruby sold at an auction but also for any colored gemstone at an auction. This appears to be a clear reflection of the dramatic increase in prices recorded for colored gemstones at recent public auctions, sometimes even rivalling the performance of the much-sought-after colored diamonds. This is the second time in recent times that a colored gemstone lot had out performed colored diamond lots at a public auction, becoming the highest selling lot at the auction. The first time a colored gemstone lot became the highest selling lot at an auction, out performing colored diamond lots was on Novmber 11, 2014, when the 392.52-carat, cushion-cut Ceylon sapphire known as the “Blue Belle of Asia” sold for a staggering US$17.7 million, at Christie’s Geneva Magnificent Jewels Sale, November 11, 2014. The “Blue Belle of Asia” then set the world record for a blue sapphire sold at an auction and for any colored gemstone sold at an auction.
The “Sunrise Ruby” assigned lot 502 was one of the four superb jewels by Cartier from a private collection, the property of a Lady. The 25.59-carat Burma ruby had a combination of outstanding characteristics such as a homogeneous and richly saturated natural “pigeon blood red” colour; a high clarity and brilliance and a finely proportioned cut and shape and was certified as untreated. The ruby was set as the centerpiece of a ring, flanked by two shield-shaped colorless diamonds weighing 2.47 carats and 2.70 carats. A pre-sale estimate of US$12.6-18.8 million was placed on the lot which was sold to an anonymous buyer for a much enhanced price of US$30,335,698 equivalent to 2.4 times the lower estimate and 1.6 times the upper estimate. The “Sunrise Ruby” set the following records at the auction :-
1) World auction record for a ruby at an auction. The previous record was held by the 8.62-carat, Burma ruby known as the “Graff Ruby” which sold for US$9.0 million (CHF 8,285,000) at Sotheby’s Geneva in November 2014.
2) World auction record price-per-carat for a ruby at an auction (US$1,185,451). Previous record price-per-carat for a ruby was held by the 8.62-carat Graff Ruby (US$1,048,772).
3) World auction record for any colored gemstone at an auction (US$30.3 million). Previous record held by the Blue Belle of Asia (US$17.7 million) sold at Christie’s Geneva, November 11, 2014.
4) World auction record for a jewel by Cartier (US$ 30,335,698). Previous record for a jewel by Cartier held by Hutton-Mdivani jadeite necklace (US$27,441,026) sold at Sotheby’s Hong Kong in April 2014.
The second highest selling lot at the auction was a colored diamond lot – Lot 460 titled “The Historic Pink, Magnificent Fancy Vivid Pink Diamond Ring,” believed to have been in the collection of Princess Mathilde Bonaparte, niece of Napoleon I and wife of Anatole Demidov. Before the auction the lot was widely predicted to top the Sotheby’s sale, by virtue of it being set with an 8.72-carat fancy vivid-pink diamond of excellent cut, polish and symmetry, with an impeccable historic provenance. However, the historic pink diamond was outperformed by the “Sunrise Ruby,” becoming the second highest selling lot at the auction and selling within its pre-sale estimate of US$14 million–$18 million for US$ 15,903,422 (CHF14,810,000). The price-per-carat value of the diamond works out to US$1,823,786 which no doubt falls within the present market values of exceptional fancy vivid-pink diamonds.
The third highest selling lot at the auction is again one of the four superb jewels by Cartier from a private collection, the property of a Lady, to which the “Sunrise Ruby” also belonged. The lot bearing No. 501 is titled “A Magnificent Diamond Necklace, Ivresse, Cartier.” The necklace is designed as a cascade of diamonds, composed of brilliant-cut, pear-cut and marquise-cut stones, most of which are D-color and Internally Flawless, varying in size from 0.66 carats to 20.39 carats. The lot sold within the pre-sale estimate of US$6-10 million for US$ 7,244,057.
The Sotheby’s Geneva Spring auction also showed clearly a continuing strong demand for natural pearl lots with connoisseurs of the very finest natural pearls very active in the sale. In this context it was no surprise that a natural pearl lot became the fourth highest-selling lot at the auction registering a price of US$7,003,519 ( CHF6,522,000). The lot bearing No. 498 was titled a “Natural Pearl and Diamond Necklace by Cartier.” The necklace from an European Private Collection is composed of two graduated strands of 78 natural pearls varying in diameter from 7.45 mm – 13.95 mm. A pre-sale estimate of US$3.0-5.0 million was placed on the two-strand necklace, which sold above the estimated range for US$7.0 million, demonstrating the strong demand for natural pearls at the auction. The price of US$7,003,519 realized is the second highest price recorded by a two-row natural pearl necklace after the price of US$7,096,000 realized by the two-strand Baroda pearl necklace, at Christie’s New York in April 2007.
The 7th and 10th highest selling lots at the sale are also natural pearl lots. The 7th highest-selling lot at the sale is lot 459, the property of a Lady, titled a “Very fine natural pearl and diamond necklace.” The single-strand pearl necklace designed by Van Cleef & Arpels is composed of a graduated row of 50 natural pearls, ranging in size from 7.95-12.40 mm. The length of the necklace is 51.5 cm (20 ins.) falling under the category of “Matinee” under the Mikimoto classification of pearl necklaces. The barrel-shaped clasp set with brilliant-cut diamonds is signed VCA. An SSEF report certifies the natural saltwater origins of the pearls. The lot sold for an enhanced price of USD3,876,526 which was 12 times the lower estimate of USD316,780 and 7 times the upper estimate of USD526,177. This again is a reflection of the strong demand for natural pearls by collectors at auctions. The price of USD3,876,526 realized by the necklace is the second highest price realized by a single-strand natural saltwater pearl necklace at an auction, after the staggering USD8,460,675 realized by a single-strand natural pearl necklace of 23 saltwater pearls at Christie’s Geneva in May 2013.
The 10th highest selling lot is Lot 478, titled “Pair of fine natural pearl and diamond pendent ear clips, Petochi.” Each earclip is set with a button shaped natural pearl measuring 13.65 x 13.70 x 12.10 mm and 13.40 x 13.50 x 12.45 mm, suspending a detachable drop shaped natural pearl pendant measuring 11.75 x 12.95 x 21.00 mm and 11.4 x 12.55 x 20.05 mm, by a bellcap arrangement set with single-cut white diamonds, and each of the linear suspensions set with two circular-cut and two marquise-cut white diamonds. A pre-sale estimate of USD263,088 – 365,102 was placed on the lot, but the lot sold for a much enhanced price of USD3,232,228 which was 12 times the lower estimate of USD263,088 and 9 times the upper estimate of USD365,102, a clear indication of the strong demand for natural pearl lots.
Other colored diamond lots that did extremely well at the auctions are Lots 499 and 500. Lot 499 is a Kashmir sapphire jewel designed by Cartier, also one of the four superb jewels by Cartier from a private collection, the property of a Lady, titled “A Magnificent Sapphire and Diamond Brooch, by Cartier” with a pre-sale estimate of US$3,661,760 – 6,281,906. The centerpiece of this crescent-shaped brooch is a 30.23-carat, cushion-cut Kashmir blue sapphire, and the crescent part of the brooch is set with pear-cut and marquise-cut diamonds with a total weight of 42.35 carats. Given the fact that the 13 diamonds in the brooch are all D-color and mostly internally flawless with a weight exceeding that of the Kashmir blue sapphire, any final price achieved by this brooch is no doubt a contribution of both the sapphire and the diamonds, and cannot be attributed to the value of the sapphire alone. Hence, the use of the term “Kashmir sapphire jewel” may be appropriate for this lot than the use of the term “Kashmir sapphire” only. The lot sold within the pre-sale estimate for US$ 6,161,637 and becomes the second highest selling “Kashmir Sapphire Jewel” after the “Richelieu Sapphires – A pair of rare and magnificent sapphire and diamond earrings” that sold at Sotheby’s Geneva on November 13, 2013 for USD 8,358,520.
Lot 500 – the fourth and last lot of the four superb jewels by Cartier, the property of a Lady, titled “Pair of Very Fine and Rare Sapphire and Diamond Ear Clips, by Cartier,” was sold for a much-enhanced price of US$ 3,425,518, which was four times the lower estimate of US$800,000 and nearly three times the upper estimate of US$1,200,000. The design of the ear clips matches the design of Lot 499, the crescent-shaped “Magnificent Sapphire and Diamond Brooch, by Cartier” also from the same collection. Each of the brooches is set with a step-cut Burma blue sapphire weighing 15.77 and 16.90 carats as centerpiece, with pear-cut and marquise-cut diamonds forming the crescent or semi-circle. Total weight of the diamonds in the semi-circle is 21.54 carats. The price of US$ 3,425,518 is a world auction record for a pair of Burmese sapphire earrings. Previous record for a pair of Burmese sapphire earrings was held by a pair with a combined weight of 32.34 carats sold for US$ 1,383,130 at Christie’s Hong Kong in November 2010.
Two colorless diamond lots are also among first ten highest selling lots – Lot 452 and Lot 442. Lot 452 an “Impressive Diamond Ring” was the 6th highest-selling lot of the sale selling within the estimated range of USD3,651,022 – 4,080,554 for USD4,056,930. The ring was claw-set with a pear-shaped brilliant, D-color, VS1-clarity diamond with excllent polish and symmetry weighing 31.93 carats. The diamond is Type IIa confirming the D-color grade of the diamond.
Lot 442 is the 9th highest-selling lot of the sale titled “Pair of Fine Diamond Earrings” and selling slightly above the estimated range of USD2,405,379 – 2,953,033 for USD3,232,228. The pendent earrings each suspend a cushion brilliant-cut diamond weighing 10.02 and 10.03 carats, from a line of single-cut diamonds. Both diamonds are D-color, Type IIa and Flawless with excellent polish and symmetry.
Out of the signed jewels Cartier came out on the top with four of its jewels, all from the same private collection, the Property of a Lady, which included the “Sunrise Ruby,” falling within the 10 highest selling lots, together achieving an outstanding total of US$47,166,909 (CHF 43,924,000), much above the estimated range of US$23.7-37.4 million (CHF 21.7-34.3 million).
Another Cartier lot that performed significantly well at the auction is Lot 469, “Pair of Fine Gem-set and Diamond Clips, by Cartier, Circa 1930,” with a pre-sale estimate of USD74,094 – 105,235, but sold for a much enhanced price of USD500,405 which is almost seven times the lower estimate and five times the upper estimate.
A signed jewel by Boucheron that performed significantly well at the auction is Lot 472, titled “Important Ruby and Diamond Bangle-Bracelet by Boucheron, Circa 1935.” A pre-sale estimate of USD418,794 – 730,204 was placed on the bracelet which sold significantly above the upper esimate for USD977,185. One side of this bracelet is pavé-set with calibré-cut rubies and the other side pavé-set with brilliant-cut and baguette diamonds.
A striking 1960s “Gem-set and diamond demi-parure by Jean Schlumberger,” bearing Lot No.453, also did fairly well at the auctions. A pre-sale estimate of USD74,094 – 112,752 was placed on this lot which sold much above the upper estimaate for USD174,497. The demi-parure consists of a pair of bracelets and a pair of earclips, each designed as a marine creaure, whose scales are set with pear-shaped sapphires, peridots and circular-cut pink sapphires; the tails and heads set with circular-cut diamonds, the eyes composed of cabochon emeralds.
Jewels of exemplary provenance, particularly the strikingly varied and rich selection of 17 delightful pieces from the Estate of Mary, Duchess of Roxburghe, did extremely well at the auctions, with all 17 lots being sold and together realising a total of US$ 8,038,691 (CHF7,486,000) – five times the pre-sale low estimate of CHF1.5 m and three times the upper estimate of CHF2.3 m. Two of the highlights of this sale include lots 497 and 493. Lot 497 is a stunning “Diamond Tiara created by Cartier in the 1930s.” A pre-sale estimate of USD316,780 – 531,546 was placed on this tiara from the Art Deco period, which sold for a much enhanced price of USD2,587,930 (CHF 2,410,000).
A second exquisite diamond tiara from the collection, which dates from the 19th century and can also be worn as a necklace, was sold for US$ 848,326 (CHF790,000) after a prolonged five minute battle between two bidders in the room. The lot titled “Diamond Tiara/Necklace, Last Quarter of the 19th-Century” was assigned Lot No.493, and was given a pre-sale estimate of USD316,780 – 531,546 (CHF295,000 – 495,000). However, eventually after the competitive bidding the lot sold for USD848,326 (CHF 790,000).
Speaking after the sale, David Bennett, Worldwide Chairman of Sotheby’s International Jewelry Division, commented: “Tonight’s record result is the reflection of the outstanding quality of the pieces in the sale across the board. The ‘Sunrise Ruby’ captivated me from the moment I saw it – such an exquisite stone truly deserved the multiple-record-breaking price this evening. The exceptional results achieved for the other Cartier jewels in the sale – including two world auction records for sapphires – and for ‘The Historic Pink Diamond’ are evidence that the market for exceptional jewels is going from strength to strength. The galleries have been brimming with collectors during our worldwide exhibitions, and this translated into lively bidding throughout the sale tonight with truly global demand for the finest diamonds, gemstones and signed pieces of the very highest order.”