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1990: Diamond Jewelry for Birthday Is Not Valued By Asian People

May 1999

April showers bring a great deal for diamonds: diamond jewelry sales for April birthdays and, of course, the Magnificent Jewels Sales of Christie’s and Sotheby’s. Diamonds were the overall winners at both major sales and fancy-color pieces were remarkably popular.

Recent Auction History – April Sales

The continuing absence of the Asian buyers and Middle Eastern high rollers and despite top prices paid by American buyers, most notably by individuals, total sales reflected the limited attendance and were well under last year’s. John Block, hammer for Sotheby’s told the DRB, “Sales were down from previous years by almost 50%, but what was encouraging was the American buyers interest in fancy colors and in diamonds in general.” Both auction houses are moving to the internet this summer which should boost sales considerably. However, without the big money from the Middle Eastern private buyers – in 1996, Saudi Arabian buyers accounted for 25% of all sales – and the continued slow recovery of the Asian buyers, auction sales remain low: for Sotheby’s 64.7% by dollar value, 80% by dollar value for Christie’s

Sotheby’s

Sotheby’s jewelry auction sales continue to drop, though not as precipitously as Christie’s. The total figure for this sale was $12,818,060, compared with the Fall sale totaling $25,973,306. It should be noted though, that the Fall sale included the “Whitney Blue & White” fancy vivid-blue and D flawless earclips which alone drew $5,172,500. Without the added heft the Whitney estate, Sotheby’s total for last year’s April sale was $17.1 million, comprising a $4.3 million drop from last year and a $12.8 million fall-off from the 1996 April total of $25.6 million.

At Sotheby’s, diamonds were the big sellers overall. Of special note were the fancy-colored diamonds much in demand, particularly the vivid-yellows and fancy intense blues. Top sellers included a pair of D flawless diamond earclips, one weighing 12.64, the other 12.13 carats ($1,487,500);a heart-shaped fancy intense-blue diamond ring of 4.2 ct. circa 1910 and mounted in platinum ($800,000); a fancy vivid-yellow diamond ring of 15.05 ct. ($552,500) mounted in 18k gold and platinum; a necklace set with 23 fancy yellow diamonds with a total 92.46 ct. ($398,500); an oval shaped light blue diamond ring of 14.05 ct. ($398,500); and a rare, pear shaped fancy vivid yellowish-orange diamond (3.23 ct.) set in a simple platinum mounting ($206,000).

Christie’s

Christie’s total sales were $14,616,535, compared to last April’s sale at $31.5 million representing a $16.9 million drop from last year.

The drama of the spring sales lay with the diamond and emerald “Holocaust Necklace” – a total of 35.5 carats in diamonds (235 stones) and 32 carats in emeralds (18 stones) – which sold for $277,500. Sixty years ago, the unidentified owner of the necklace sold most of his property to purchase the piece in the hope of buying his family’s safety in Nazi-dominated Europe. But it was only moments after hiding the necklace behind a kitchen tile in the family’s apartment that he and his wife were arrested and taken to a concentration camp. Though the wife died in the camp, the gentleman survived and was able to recover the necklace. Prior to the man’s death last year, he entrusted the necklace to his son who sold the piece in compliance with the man’s wishes, the proceeds from the sale will benefit the Chaim Sheba Medical Center in Israel for the impoverished elderly.

Of particular note at Christie’s was that final sale prices were quite a bit higher than the estimated prices. At the block were designs by Chaumet including the top selling 17.04 carat D VS1 cushion-cut diamond and platinum ring (est. $400,000 to $500,000, final: $816,500); a rectangular-cut diamond ring, 15.76 ct. (est. $480,000-$520,000, final: $618,500); and a very rare – and quite exceptionally beautiful – Art Deco Kashmir sapphire and diamond bracelet which, interestingly, was accompanied by an AGTA certificate stating that there were no enhancements made to the stones. The estimate for the bracelet was $70,000-$90,000 and brought a much higher final price of $332,500. And in a triumph for the artists of the industry, a fragile, pavé-set diamond butterfly broach was sold for $541,500. Comprised of near-colorless and fancy vivid green-yellow diamonds set in platinum and 18K white gold, the piece is accompanied by 10 GIA certificates. At a total of 5.31 ct., the per carat price for the piece was $101,977. It seems that, in this case, the artistic whole is of greater value than its parts.

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