INTERVIEW – Bonhams New York sale to feature two exceptional old-mine Kashmir sapphires


As Bonhams switches its sales increasingly into an online format during the coronavirus pandemic, the market outlook remains buoyant for extraordinary examples of rare gemstones and jewellery, Jean Ghika, global head of jewellery, tells Jewellery Outlook Editor David Brough. 

What are the highlighted consigned items of the next Bonhams jewellery and gemstones auctions in the United States? When and where will the sales take place?

Our New York Jewels sale, due to be held on 28th July at Bonhams Madison Avenue offices in NY, will include two rare old-mine cushion-cut Kashmir sapphires weighing 9.23 carats and 6.94 carats respectively.

Both stones hail from a private collection originally formed by two brothers who purchased the stones as engagement rings, circa 1900.

They display the typical rich blue tone and velvety quality so often associated with sapphires from the Kashmir region.

The sapphires have the following estimates and an image of both together is enclosed here:

A cushion-cut sapphire, weighing 9.23 carats with a certificate from Gubelin Laboratory: $475,000-775,000

A cushion-cut sapphire, weighing 6.94 carats with a certificate from Gubelin Laboratory: $250,000-450,000

INTERVIEW – Bonhams New York sale to feature two exceptional old-mine Kashmir sapphires
Kashmir Sapphires Rings

Other highlights include:

  • A platinum, diamond and cultured pearl bracelet, by Boucheron: $30,000-50,000platinum, diamond and cultured pearl bracelet
  • An old-mine cut diamond ring, the central diamond weighing 15.52 carats: $125,000-175,000An old-mine cut diamond ring
  • A chrysoprase, onyx and diamond sautoir: $25,000-45,000A chrysoprase, onyx and diamond sautoir

How are your auctions changing during the lockdown period? Are Bonhams sales increasingly conducted online?

We have adapted our sales calendar and switched a number of sales to an online format. Most notably the rolling series of five Luxury Sales that occur on a weekly basis in Hong Kong: these started in mid-April and run until early June.

These sales include a selection of items of jewellery, watches and whisky pitched at an affordable price-point which appeals to a broad spectrum of clients. In addition, we have further online sales in London and Los Angeles in June.

Alongside our online offering we will also be holding live sales of jewellery in Hong Kong, London and New York in July.

The viewing for each sale will be by appointment only and held in adherence with local authority regulations in each location.

The sale itself will be a live auction conducted by an auctioneer at Bonhams offices and streamed via our website with buyers participating by bidding online, by telephone or leaving absentee bids.

What periods of fine jewellery are most sought after in the high-value jewellery auctions market, in your view, and why are those periods so popular with collectors? What periods are less popular among collectors?

I would divide my answer into two categories: firstly gemstones and then jewellery. In terms of gemstones, there continues to be strong demand for old-mine emeralds from Colombia, Burmese rubies and Kashmir sapphires.

Top quality coloured stones, especially if they are old-mine examples, are exceptionally rare and increasingly difficult to find and as a result, highly sought after.

This also holds true for other coloured stones: there is a renewed interest in spinel, specifically those originating from Burma, for example.

With regard to jewellery, the enduring appeal of the Art Deco era remains as strong as ever.

This inter-war period is considered by many as the heyday of many of the renowned French jewellery houses and never goes out of fashion. Demand remains consistently strong.

In addition, there is now also a growing interest in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. This post-war era, previously unrecognised and arguably overlooked as a collecting area, is now considered by many as a period of exemplary creative output.

Good examples from any of these post-war decades are now keenly fought over at auction by a growing band of collectors. Specific designers to look out for are Pierre Sterle, Jean Schlumberger, David Webb, and Andrew Grima.

What is the overall outlook for the high-value jewellery auctions market, against a backdrop of expectations for a severe global economic downturn?

Any market is notoriously difficult to predict with any degree of accuracy and although I do not have a crystal ball, I do believe that items of exceptional quality and rarity in both the gemstones and jewellery categories will retain their value.

If one looks back in history there is clear precedent for jewels and gemstones being a portable store of wealth during times of crisis.

This inevitably means that some investors and collectors will consider precious stones and jewellery as a safe haven in times of financial uncertainty and historically low interest rates.