Auc­tion GEMS

LOOK­ING TO BUY FINE JEW­ELLERY AT AUC­TION? Y-JEAN MUN DEL­SALLE ASKS THE WORLD’S LEAD­ING AUC­TION HOUSES FOR AD­VICE

Hong Kong Tatler - - How To Buy -

Four years ago, at the Christie’s Hong Kong Novem­ber 2010 sale, a rec­tan­gu­lar-cut fancy in­tense pink di­a­mond (14.23 carats, VVS2, Type IIA) sold for US$23.2 mil­lion. Then, at its most re­cent spring auc­tion, a 28.88ct cush­ion-shaped Colom­bian emer­ald fetched US$4.15M and a rect­an­gu­lar­shaped fancy or­angey pink di­a­mond of 12.93ct by Harry Win­ston went for US$3.64M. The Sotheby’s Hong Kong spring sale in April this year of­fered the Hut­ton-mdi­vani neck­lace with Qing-era jadeite beads re­put­edly from the Im­pe­rial Court—the great­est jadeite bead neck­lace in the world. It was ac­quired for US$27.4M, more than dou­ble the es­ti­mate, thereby achiev­ing a world auc­tion record for any jadeite jew­ellery and for a Cartier jewel. In April 2013, Bon­hams London sold a unique Bul­gari 5.30ct fancy deep blue di­a­mond Trom­bino ring for US$9.47M — a world record price per carat for a blue di­a­mond at auc­tion (US$1.8M per carat) and the high­est price it has ever achieved for a piece of jew­ellery at auc­tion.

Vickie Sek, deputy chair­man of Christie’s Asia and di­rec­tor and head of the Jew­ellery & Jadeite depart­ment, ex­plains the buoy­ancy of the cur­rent mar­ket: “The out­look of the jew­ellery mar­ket is pos­i­tive. Prices for one-ofa-kind jew­els, spe­cial con­tem­po­rary cre­ations and jew­els of ex­cep­tional prove­nance have risen dra­mat­i­cally in re­cent years. In fact, an im­por­tant jew­ellery piece will al­ways fetch mar­ket price.”

The di­rec­tor of jew­ellery for Bon­hams in Asia, Graeme Thomp­son, says, “At the top end of the mar­ket, jew­ellery is a trophy as­set for the pas­sion in­vestor. The boom is due to sim­ple eco­nomics, which ul­ti­mately comes down to sup­ply and de­mand.”

Cur­rently, the pro­file of fine jew­ellery buy­ers of Bon­hams Hong Kong con­sists of clients from around Asia, with a strong on­line fol­low­ing from Europe and the US. Th­ese are gen­er­ally pri­vate male clients aged 35 years and up, although fi­nan­cially-in­de­pen­dent women are a very im­por­tant cat­e­gory. The col­lec­tors at Sotheby’s Hong Kong jew­ellery sales are gen­er­ally aged from 30 to 70 years old, with a 65 per cent fe­male to 35 per cent male ra­tio, and are mainly Asian with good in­ter­na­tional par­tic­i­pa­tion. The Christie’s Hong Kong auc­tion last spring saw 20 per cent of new buy­ers, who had come to Hong Kong for its Chi­nese paint­ings, Asian con­tem­po­rary and Chi­nese works of art sales. While there, they crossed over to

jew­ellery. The auc­tion house’s reg­u­lar buy­ers come from China, France, Italy, Switzer­land, Rus­sia, South Amer­ica, Saudi Ara­bia and the United Arab Emi­rates.

WHAT’S HOT

Di­a­monds, coloured di­a­monds and coloured gem­stones are the most sought-after by col­lec­tors of jew­ellery at auc­tion, with de­mand grow­ing rapidly. Thomp­son says, “You can ap­pre­ci­ate the ac­tual value of di­a­monds; they make good in­vest­ment pieces. Let’s not for­get a five-carat D colour, in­ter­nally flaw­less di­a­mond has in­creased in value by 165 per cent over the past 10 years. This is a very im­pres­sive re­turn con­sid­er­ing the plea­sure one can get from wear­ing such an im­pres­sive gem.” Jadeite has been highly prized in re­cent years be­cause of grow­ing Main­land Chi­nese in­ter­est, while the mar­ket for nat­u­ral pearls has been strong lately. Bon­hams, which sells more jew­ellery than any other auc­tion house in the world, dis­closes that in­vestors are in­creas­ingly snap­ping up nat­u­ral pearls be­cause of their in­creas­ing rar­ity—over­fish­ing and pol­lu­tion mean sup­ply is di­min­ish­ing— and the in­flu­ence of celebri­ties like Sarah Jessica Parker, An­gelina Jolie, Scar­lett Jo­hans­son and the Duchess of Cam­bridge, Kate Mid­dle­ton.

Be­cause of limited sup­ply, col­lectabil­ity, crafts­man­ship and in­no­va­tion, signed his­toric fine jew­ellery from the world’s most cov­eted brands make great in­vest­ment pieces, too. Works of art in their own right, they are be­com­ing in­creas­ingly harder to find as time goes by, and the mak­ers’ her­itage and hall­mark add to their in­cred­i­ble de­sir­abil­ity. Quek Chin Yeow, deputy chair­man of Sotheby’s in Asia and chair­man of In­ter­na­tional Jew­ellery for Asia, says,

QUEK’S SUG­GES­TIONS FOR BRANDS WORTH SPEND­ING ON IN­CLUDE JAR, STE­FAN AND CHRISTIAN HEM­MERLE, VIREN BHAGAT, CINDY CHAO, WAL­LACE CHAN AND ED­MOND CHIN

“Vin­tage signed pieces from the Belle Époque era, Cartier art deco pieces from the 1920s to ’30s, and iconic Van Cleef & Ar­pels pieces from the 1950s are all highly sought after at auc­tion.”

Sek ex­plains, “Signed vin­tage jew­els have al­ways had a strong fol­low­ing and more so to­day, as ex­am­ples from this pe­riod have be­come more and more dif­fi­cult to find. Th­ese pieces from master jew­ellers such as Boucheron, Bul­gari, Cartier, Van Cleef & Ar­pels -and Harry Win­ston are al­ways very popular as they of­fer a de­sir­able com­bi­na­tion of rar­ity, qual­ity and ex­clu­siv­ity. In con­sid­er­ing dif­fer­ent stones, it is good to be aware of the vol­ume of their pro­duc­tion. For ex­am­ple, top-qual­ity ru­bies are in scarce sup­ply be­cause of the sit­u­a­tion in Myan­mar. The Mo­gok Stone Tract where they come from is also pretty well worked out. Other ar­eas are also be­ing worked, but the stones are of in­fe­rior qual­ity.”

Bon­hams Hong Kong is also ac­tively pro­mot­ing signed and un­signed an­tique and pe­riod jew­ellery be­cause it feels this is an area that is cur­rently un­der­val­ued. It be­lieves cer­tain gem­stones like sap­phires and ru­bies are un­der­val­ued as well and there­fore have the great­est in­vest­ment po­ten­tial. “You don’t need to spend lots of money to buy some­thing worth in­vest­ing in,” Thomp­son says. “HK$80,000 or above is a good start­ing point at our sales, but you can spend mil­lions of dol­lars if that is what you are look­ing to do.”

SMART AD­VICE

Quek’s sug­ges­tions for brands worth spend­ing on in­clude: JAR, recog­nised as the great­est jew­eller work­ing to­day; con­tem­po­rary de­sign­ers Ste­fan and Christian Hem­merle of Mu­nich; Viren Bhagat of Mumbai; Cindy Chao of Taipei; and two cel­e­brated Hong Kong­based de­sign­ers, Wal­lace Chan and Ed­mond Chin. Top-qual­ity di­a­monds, prefer­ably of three to five carats and up, also make for great in­vest­ment ve­hi­cles as di­a­mond prices have been steadily grow­ing for decades, de­ter­mined by the stan­dard cri­te­ria of cut, colour, carat and clar­ity.

Sek gives ad­vice for prospec­tive clien­tele: “Col­lec­tors should al­ways buy what they are pas­sion­ate about and what they can best

af­ford. Also, rar­ity, qual­ity and prove­nance to the mar­ket are the key qual­i­ties that col­lec­tors look for in nearly ev­ery ob­ject sold at auc­tion, in­clud­ing all sorts of jew­els. De­sign can add to the value sig­nif­i­cantly. Col­lec­tors are will­ing to pay top dol­lar for unique and rare, one-of-a-kind pieces, com­bined with ex­clu­siv­ity. His­toric jew­els and jew­els with sig­nif­i­cant prove­nance can com­mand high prices and are likely to hold or in­crease in value as well.”

So how should first-time buy­ers spot and bid for great jew­ellery at auc­tion? Start by learn­ing about jew­ellery and familiarising your­self with re­tail and auc­tion price. Study the cat­a­logues, go to auc­tion pre­views, at­tend the auc­tions them­selves and talk to the spe­cial­ists, who are on hand at all times to help ex­plain any par­tic­u­lar jewel to a client and, where pos­si­ble, will give com­par­isons of sim­i­lar jew­els sold at auc­tion or on the mar­ket.

Sotheby’s Hong Kong will hold its Mag­nif­i­cent Jew­els & Jadeite auc­tion on Oc­to­ber 7, star­ring an im­por­tant stone es­ti­mated at HK$100M. Christie’s Hong Kong’s next Mag­nif­i­cent Jew­els sale will be held in Novem­ber and will showcase an ar­ray of di­a­monds, jadeite jew­els, Burmese ru­bies and sap­phires, Colom­bian emer­alds and signed pieces. Bon­hams Hong Kong’s next Fine Jew­ellery and Jadeite sale will take place on Novem­ber 24 and will fea­ture ap­prox­i­mately 180 lots.

Al­ter­na­tively, visit jew­ellery fairs in­clud­ing Mi­ami in Jan­uary, Basel in March, Master­piece London in June, and the Paris Bi­en­nale and Hong Kong Jew­ellery & Gem Fair in Septem­ber. Visit jew­ellery shops and en­gage the sales staff about their stock—this is where you will prob­a­bly find the most fas­ci­nat­ing gems and jew­els.

MA­JOR PLAYER jew­ellery auc­tion

Bon­hams CEO Matthew Gir­ling at a re­cent

STRIK­ING STONES Con­sider rar­ity, qual­ity and prove­nance of pieces be­fore pur­chase

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