MARKET INSIGHT – Top end of gemstone and jewellery market shows resilience in inflationary times

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By David Brough

GENEVA, Switzerland – The top end of the gemstone and jewellery market, reflected in the buoyant results at the Geneva Magnificent Jewels auctions in May, is proving to be resilient as collectors take refuge in rare and beautiful collectable items that can hold their value in inflationary times.

At Christie’s, “The Rock”, at 228.31 carats the largest white diamond ever to appear at auction, achieved $21.9 million (21.7 million Swiss francs (CHF)), meeting the auction house’s expectations for a 19-30 million CHF price tag, snapped up by a private collector.

Rahul Kadakia, Christie’s International Head of Jewellery

“The Rock.” Picture courtesy of Christie’s

In another headline lot, Christie’s sold the 205.07-carat fancy intense yellow “RED CROSS DIAMOND” to a private collector for $14.32 million (14.18 million CHF), after lengthy bidding, again meeting their expectations, with significant proceeds going to The Red Cross.

The result, at $70,000 per carat, was a world auction record for a fancy intense yellow diamond, Christie’s said.

RED CROSS diamond

RED CROSS diamond. Picture courtesy of Christie’s.

The mood in the saleroom was optimistic, corroborating sentiment at the upscale GemGenève show a few days earlier that the top end of the diamond, coloured gemstone, and antique and vintage jewellery market was well-supported, as the rarest and most beautiful items are seen as inflation-proof, safe-haven “passion investments” at times of heightened geo-political uncertainty, with the war in Ukraine now weighing on people’s concerns.

Several other highly anticipated lots achieved strong results, including the diamond and natural pearl “Furstenberg Tiara”, formerly belonging to the Austrian royal family, which fetched $2.42 million (2.39 million CHF), by far surpassing its 400,000-600,000 CHF pre-sale estimate.

Its price was underpinned by the robust market for extremely rare natural saltwater pearls.

Collectors said on the sidelines of the Geneva sales that the top end of the market is strong across the board, led by “signed” items from well-respected maisons like Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Bulgari, and Harry Winston.

At Christie’s, a sapphire and diamond bangle by Roman high jeweller Bulgari, sold for $280,000 (277,200 CHF), beating its 170,000 to 220,000 CHF estimate.

In Geneva, Christie’s sold 98 percent by value and 92 percent by lot, reflecting robust demand by collectors for high-quality jewellery and gemstones.

Max Fawcett, head of Christie’s Geneva jewellery department, told Jewellery Outlook that the top end of the market remained vibrant, and was underpinned by the uncertain geo-political and economic backdrop, including inflation.

Sotheby’s most highly anticipated lot, a 1927 diamond and gem-set bracelet by Oscar Heyman & Brothers, characterised by extraordinary craftsmanship, which fronted their auction catalogue, achieved $1.45 million (1.44 million CHF), well above its 470,000-745,000 CHF estimate, delighting auctioneer Olivier Wagner who had highlighted the piece as an outstanding lot.

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – MAY 10: Auctioneer Kristian Spofforth during Magnificent and Nobel Jewels Live Auction on May 10, 2022 in Geneva, Switzerland. (Photo by Robert Hradil/Getty Images for Sotheby’s)

Sotheby’s Magnificent Jewels and Noble Jewels auction in Geneva on May 10, 2022.

Fancy coloured diamonds also achieved strong results at Sotheby’s, notably a rare and magnificent fancy intense purple-pink diamond ring, which sold for $5.67 million (5.61 million CHF), within its 4.19 million to 6 million CHF estimate.

Pink natural diamonds have recently outperformed other fancy vivid colours, including yellows and blues, according to the Fancy Color Research Foundation (FCRF).

Among other hotly anticipated pieces, a pair of Mozambican paraiba tourmaline jewels from Bond Street jeweller Boodles attracted brisk bidding and outperformed their estimates: a pair of paraiba tourmaline and diamond earrings achieved $356,000 (352,800 CHF), surging past their 50,000-70,000 CHF estimate, while a “Wonderland” ring featuring a superb paraiba tourmaline and diamonds fetched $534,000 (529,200 CHF), well above its 200,000-300,000 CHF estimate.

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – MAY 10: Auctioneer Jessica Wyndham during Magnificent and Nobel Jewels Live Auction on May 10, 2022 in Geneva, Switzerland. (Photo by Robert Hradil/Getty Images for Sotheby’s)

Sotheby’s Magnificent Jewels and Noble Jewels auction in Geneva on May 10, 2022.