Ul­tra-rich bid for all that glit­ters at Swiss auc­tions

Kuwait Times - - BUSINESS -

GENEVA: Geneva’s au­tumn jewel auc­tions got un­der­way Tues­day, with Rus­sian oli­garchs and Chi­nese bil­lion­aires among those eye­ing up the ar­ray of eye-wa­ter­ingly ex­pen­sive bling on of­fer. The Swiss city’s twice-an­nual sales of rare jew­els are of­ten dom­i­nated by stones the size of door-stop­pers. But this week, gems val­ued by their weight in carats will share cen­tre stage with gems en­riched by the weight of his­tory-in­clud­ing Rus­sian di­a­monds that re­put­edly helped bro­ker peace be­tween war­ring em­pires three cen­turies ago.

Christie’s kicked off the sales at the lux­ury Four Sea­sons Ho­tel des Ber­gues on Lake Geneva, with an anony­mous tele­phone bid­der snap­ping up the most close­ly­watched item-a pair of Boehmer and Bas­senge ear­rings-for a cool $17.61 mil­lion (16.42 mil­lion eu­ros) in­clud­ing com­mis­sion. To­bias Kor­mind, head of the 77 Di­a­monds firm that tracks the global di­a­mond mar­ket, said elite col­lec­tors are more at­tracted to loose stones rather than show-stop­pers like the ear­rings, com­posed of two flaw­less white di­a­monds weigh­ing 52.55 carats and 50.47 carats.

“These ear­rings are far more likely to be a gift for some­one to wear for spe­cial oc­ca­sions,” he said ahead of the sale, not­ing that the list of peo­ple in­ter­ested in so­cial­iz­ing with more than 100 carats worth of di­a­monds on their ears is lim­ited. The ear­rings fell a lit­tle short of the ex­pected price, val­ued by Christie’s at $20-$30 mil­lion. A neck­lace made of three huge di­a­monds by the same jew­eller went un­der the ham­mer for $8.06 mil­lion.

Ri­val Sotheby’s takes its turn across the road at the five-star Ho­tel Beau Ri­vage. Among Sotheby’s show­case of­fers is a parure fea­tur­ing di­a­monds once owned by Rus­sian empress Cather­ine I that were given to her by her hus­band, czar Peter the Great, who led Rus­sia un­til his death in 1725. In 1711, Cather­ine was wor­ried that a rag­ing con­flict with the Ot­toman Em­pire posed an ex­is­ten­tial threat to Rus­sia and or­dered her hus­band-in the mid­dle of the night-to draft a peace treaty, Sotheby’s said, cit­ing his­tor­i­cal records.

With­out telling Peter, Cather­ine sent the peace pro­posal and all the jew­els she was trav­el­ling with to the Ot­toman Sul­tan Ahmed III. The Sul­tan “ac­cepted these and was ob­vi­ously de­lighted, and the truce was given and the (Rus­sian) em­pire was saved”, David Ben­nett, head of Sotheby’s In­ter­na­tional Jew­ellery Di­vi­sion said. The parure fea­tur­ing Cather­ine’s di­a­monds is ex­pected to sell for be­tween $3 mil­lion and $5 mil­lion. In an auc­tion heavy on Rus­sian im­pe­rial trea­sures, Sotheby’s is also of­fer­ing a di­a­mond neck­lace with a de­tach­able clasp owned by empress Cather­ine II-Cather­ine the Great, who ruled Rus­sia from 1762 to 1796. It is sim­i­larly val­ued at up to $5 mil­lion.

$180 mil­lion of bling

Noth­ing sold on Tues­day night came close to the eye-pop­ping records set by col­ored stones at re­cent sales. Christie’s set the cur­rent mark in May, sell­ing the 14.62-carat “Op­pen­heimer Blue” for $57.54 mil­lion. That beat a record set a year ago by Sotheby’s, when Hong Kong bil­lion­aire Joseph Lau bought the 12.03-carat “Blue Moon of Josephine” for $48.4 mil­lion. Christie’s is aim­ing to cap­i­tal­ize on the still-solid col­ored stones mar­ket with a 9.14-carat Fancy Vivid Pink es­ti­mated at $16-$18 mil­lion. The rare “Fancy Vivid” clas­si­fi­ca­tion is awarded by the Ge­mo­log­i­cal In­sti­tute of Amer­ica to sig­nify a stone’s ex­cep­tional color and clar­ity. Sotheby’s top col­ored gem go­ing un­der the ham­mer this week is the 8.01-carat “Sky Blue Di­a­mond”, with a pre-auc­tion es­ti­mated price of $15-$25 mil­lion. Sotheby’s has es­ti­mated its 342-lot auc­tion at a to­tal of $100 mil­lion, while Christie’s is of­fer­ing 220 lots, with an es­ti­mated value of $80 mil­lion. —AFP

GENEVA: A pic­ture taken shows a model dis­play­ing a pair of di­a­mond ear­rings called ‘Miroir de l’Amour’ cre­ated from two D-color, flaw­less pear­shaped di­a­monds of 52,55 and 50,47 carats dur­ing a press pre­view at Christie’s auc­tion house in Geneva. —AFP

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