The jewellery auction season is over and now that the blizzard of publicity and eye watering numbers has stopped cascading towards us we can step back and take a measured look at how the sales have performed.
There have been several ‘Biggest Ever’ stones offered at auction this year. These stones were exceptional not only in size, but also in quality. We must add a mention here for the largely unsung hero that is the stone cutter. Coloured stones take months of studying before faceting; not only does the cutter have to remove the maximum amount of flaws to maximise the clarity, he also has to ensure the colour is evenly spread. Coloured stones are rarely evenly coloured and the cutter must ensure that the colour is as close to the centre of the stone as possible in order to ensure maximum colour saturation. The cutter is solely responsible for maximising a gem’s potential.
But I digress- the prices achieved this year did not disappoint. The Unique Pink Diamond sold by Sotheby’s in May fetched a world record as the most expensive pink diamond ever sold; at 15.38 carats it was the largest pear shaped pink diamond to be sold at auction and it fetched $31.56 million. It sold to an anonymous Asian buyer who was bidding over the telephone and so far their identity remains secret.
A trio of blues of exceptional quality and size also held auction watchers agog. The Oppenheimer Blue, a beautiful emerald cut of over 14 carats smashed its $29 million top estimate, fetching $57.5 million. It made it the most expensive blue diamond ever sold, also setting a record sale time of just 25 minutes.
More nervous were Christie’s during the sale of the Cullinan Dream, the 24.18 carat blue behemoth, the largest blue diamond in the world ever to be auctioned. They had reason to be, after the disastrous withdrawal of the Shirley Temple Blue Diamond earlier that month, which had failed to reach its reserve. Bidding was slow on this lot and the price went up agonisingly slowly. However, it managed to reach $25.3 million- still a remarkable sum for a single gem, by any standards.
One more stone that deserves an honourable mention is the Jubilee Ruby sold by Christie’s, beautifully set by Verdura (I do often wonder why some of these amazing stones aren’t more imaginatively set). A rare stone of just under 16 carats, it set a US record with a hammer price of $12.5 million, plus fees.
Overall, it was a good year for gem auctions. Although prices held very well, other than the stones mentioned above, no other records were broken and most lots came in just shy of their high estimates, with a few exceptional stones coming in short of their low estimates.