After watches, jewellery. On Monday May 16th, Christie’s beat five world records at its sale of Important Watches, including a 1928 Patek Philippe chronograph that sold for CHF 3.2 million. Two days later, the auction house struck again, totalling an astounding CHF 68.95 million (US$ 78.12 million) in one day with its sale of Geneva Magnificent Jewels. These are the highest revenues Christie’s has ever realised in all its 42 years in Geneva. François Curiel, Chairman of Christie’s Switzerland, sees in this proof that “Geneva remains a vital, specialised auction centre in today’s global market.”
The sale was led by an unmounted heart-shaped Type IIa diamond weighing 56 carats and graded IF (internally flawless or no visible inclusions when viewed through a 10x loupe). It found a buyer at CHF 9.6 million (US$ 10.9 million) to set a new record for a stone of this type. Prior to this, the record had been held by the Heart of the Desert diamond which sold in 1994 for CHF 6.8 million (US$ 5.2 million). Another highlight of the sale was a cushion-cut Burmese sapphire of 130 carats, which at CHF 6.2 million (US$ 7.1 million) achieved five times its pre-sale estimate and broke the previous world record price for a sapphire at auction. An Imperial Mughal spinel necklace went for twice its estimate at CHF 4.6 million (US$ 5.2 million) to set another world record, this time for an Indian jewel sold at auction.
CHF 11.2 million for an emerald tiara
Sotheby’s had already given a strong hint of collectors’ appetite this spring season when the previous evening the auction house sold “the most important emerald and diamond tiara to have appeared at auction in over 30 years for CHF 11.2 million (US$ 12.7 million), the highest price ever achieved for a tiara at auction.” As Sotheby’s explained, six bidders competed for this magnificent tiara, taking bids well in excess of the pre-sale estimate of CHF 4.6 to 9.2 million (US$ 5 to 10 million).
The tiara was commissioned circa 1900, possibly from Chaumet. It is composed of eleven Colombian emerald pear-shaped drops weighing more than 500 carats in total, and came from the collection of Princess Katharina Henckel von Donnersmarck. It too set a record for a piece of emerald jewellery. In total, this sale of Magnificent and Noble Jewels garnered CHF 78.9 million (US$ 89.1 million), eclipsing pre-sale estimates of CHF 41.9 to 69 million (US$ 47.3 to 77.9 million) to set the third record for a jewellery sale.
Commenting on the sale, David Bennet, Chairman, Europe and the Middle East, Jewellery, declared that “Sotheby’s was honoured to be able to offer perhaps the grandest piece of jewellery to come to sale in over 30 years and the market responded with enthusiasm. This evening’s results across the board – in Noble Jewels, diamonds, coloured gemstones, and pieces signed by the world’s greatest jewellers – show the extraordinary appetite among connoisseurs for rarity, quality and provenance.”
A further highlight of the sale was a pink diamond of 10.99 carats, which sold for CHF 9.6 million (US$ 10.8 million), “the third highest price for a pink diamond and the ninth highest price for a diamond at auction.” The diamond, from a private collection, belongs to the Type IIa category which represents less than 2% of the world’s gem diamonds. It had been estimated between CHF 8.3 and 14.8 million (US$ 9 to 16 million). The record for a diamond at auction is held by the Graff Pink, a 24.78-carat stone which Laurence Graff purchased for CHF 45.4 million (US$ 45.6 million) at Sotheby’s last November.