Highest quality items outperform at Geneva jewel sales

GENEVA, May 2019The Geneva magnificent jewelry auctions in May revealed brisk demand for the highest quality jewels and colored gemstones, but some standout items fell short of their investment potential.

Among the star lots was an Art Deco necklace once owned by an American socialite who was a friend of the Duchess of Windsor, and supremely rare rubies and emeralds, which also had in some cases royal provenance.

Many lots surpassed pre-sale estimates, especially signed jewels from high jewelry brands and remarkably rare and beautiful colored gemstones and diamonds.

“The market was very selective: only stones of truly fine quality achieved an exceptional price. The remainder were either unsold or achieved an average price. This is a market for experts – for real merchants”, said Emmanuel Piat.

The top selling lot at the Christie’s sale held at the Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues on May 15, was an extraordinarily rare ruby of 22.86 carats set in a ring by Harry Winston.

Attracting dynamic bidding, the ring, which was the property of a princess, sold for $7.2 million to an anonymous buyer, well above its $2.0-3.0 million pre-sale estimate.

“Rubies are not easy to find in large sizes,” chief auctioneer Rahul Kadakia said in an interview after the sale.

“A ruby of almost 23 carats, old-mine cut, with royal provenance, Harry Winston – all of that put together, this is the perfect situation for an auction.”

Another strongly performing gem was a 118.05-carat yellow brilliant-cut diamond, which achieved $7.09 million, almost triple its pre-sale estimate.


Some good quality but not exceptional gems failed to score impressive prices, Emmanuel Piat said in his analysis.

One example was a Burmese sapphire (Lot 170 Christie’s) of 20.76 carats, which achieved an unremarkable $25,000 per carat.

“It is a logical result. The stone was a little sad, with some grey in the blue.”



The Sotheby’s sale, held in the Mandarin Oriental on May 14, saw a number of Art Deco pieces sell for big sums, but they did not necessarily realise their full potential.

The top lot was a 1930s emerald and diamond necklace once owned by Helene Beaumont, an American socialite and close friend of the Duchess of Windsor, which garnered $3.6 million, in line with its pre-sale estimate and more than double the price achieved when it first sold at auction in 1994.

Emmanuel Piat, in its analysis of the necklace, said the doubling of the price in 25 years, represented an unexceptional 4 percent annual increase on average.

In addition to the “Beaumont necklace”, the evening saw a number of high prices for Art Deco jewels.

Set with cushion-shaped Colombian emeralds weighing 17.01 and 17.71 carats respectively, a pair of earrings in the Art Deco style sold for $972,934.

A ring by Bulgari, featuring a ruby of 5.14 carats surrounded by diamonds, sold for $1.69 million, beating its $1.25-1.35 million estimate.

Emmanuel Piat singled out this ruby as being of exceptional quality, referring to “its great elegance, a pretty red, lightly pink (not pigeon blood).”

“The Geneva magnificent jewelry auctions benefited from the proximity of the second edition of GemGeneve, which brought more buyers here,” said Elke Berr, a Geneva-based gems dealer who regularly attends the auctions.

She was referring to GemGeneve, a well-attended gems and jewelry trade show held at Palexpo, near Geneva airport, from May 9-12, just before the auctions.