Buyers aren’t scaling back on jewelry amid the ongoing global Covid-19 crisis, auction sales of high-ticket jewels are booming, thanks in part to online previews and bidding and a surge in availability of rare pieces. “We were stressed going into the live auction in Geneva, because we knew it would determine what the market felt like, says Christie’s jewelry specialist Marie-Cécile Cisamolo. “But it was a great auction, totaling over $42 million, with over 80% of lots sold. Basically, what is selling is high-quality gems and signed pieces in good condition. The market is there. Clients are there. In the current situation, it is a relief.” Cisamolo says she’s seeing more exceptional pieces coming to market partly due to some clients taking a step back due to the virus and questioning whether or not they will ever wear certain pieces again.
The live July sale in Geneva, which totaled $42,505,669, included a ring by REZA with an internally flawless fancy-blue diamond and a clear diamond, each approximately 5.3 carats, for $9,254,595. Another internally flawless diamond, weighing 100.85 carats, sold for $5,946,070, and a diamond and fancy-yellow diamond bracelet by Cartier sold for $2,559,900. Christie’s also sold a 28-carat diamond in an online auction in June for $2,115,000—a record price, at the time, for any jewel sold in an online auction.
Fine emeralds and sapphires are also selling well, particularly rare specimens from Colombia or Burma. Christie’s sold a ring set with a 29.54-carat Colombian emerald for $1,796,700 at its July sale in Geneva, along with a ring set with a rare, Kashmir sapphire weighing 12.44 carats for $1,160,700. Another ring, by Cartier, set with a 52.20-carat Ceylon sapphire, sold for $766,380.
According to Cisamolo, if there is any segment not on par with pre-Covid sales, it is unsigned vintage pieces in the mid price range, mainly because people haven’t been able to preview them first-hand and determine their condition. “Antique unsigned pieces in the mid market are getting more difficult to sell,” she says. “People are looking for top quality and want to examine the condition before they decide whether or not they are willing to invest. That’s the way things were going anyway, but it is emphasized now by the limitation in travel.”
Sotheby’s jewelry sales are also booming at the high end. At its Geneva sale in July, it sold a fancy-grey/blue diamond ring for CHF 2,060,000 (about $2,251,400) and a fancy pink diamond ring for CHF 2,840,000 (about $3,104,000). At a Hong Kong sale in July, it sold a pair of black and white diamond earrings for $2,345,000, and several multi-million-dollar diamonds in online sales.
“Due to the pandemic, we postponed the live Magnificent Jewels auctions from April to July, but we held three online jewelry auctions, all of which were 100%-sold white-glove sales,” says Wenhao Yu, deputy chairman, of jewelry for Sotheby’s Asia. “Our Magnificent Jewels sale in July totaled $56 million, the highest valued jewelry sale worldwide this year, including two exceptional fancy vivid diamonds, a blue and a pink selling for $10.5 million and $8 million respectively, attesting to the strong demand for top quality jewels—like great art, they endure. We’ve also had great success with quality designer pieces as well as vintage jewels in great condition.”