Sotheby’s 2016 Autumn Jewelry Sales kicked off on 21st September, 2016, in London, when Sotheby’s London successfully held its Fine jewels Sale at its auction house in New Bond Street. 196 out of 258 lots were sold at the auction, working out to a percentage of 76%. Over 70% of these lots sold for prices above their upper pre-sale estimates. The sale total achieved at the auctions including buyer’s premium was GBP 2,133,125 equivalent to USD 2,767, 132.
The results of the auction clearly demonstrated that signed jewelry from the 20th-Century is still very much in demand. Top lot of the sale was Lot 209, a piece by Cartier designed in the 1960s. Other designers. jewelry houses that came out on the top were Faraone, Bulgari, Van Cleef & Arpels, Buccellati, Kutchinsky, Rene Bovin and Sabbadini.
Lot 209 titled “Pair of Gem-set and Diamond Ear Clips, Cartier,1960s,” has a pre-sale estimate of GBP 5,000-7,000. Each of the earclips, signed Cartier, is designed as an an “EYE,” a cabochon amethyst set on white gold, representing the “eye ball,” round brilliant-cut, colorless/white diamonds claw-set on white gold, representing the white of the eye, medium blue/green turquoises set on yellow gold, representing the upper and lower eye-lid,and dark blue Lapis Lazuli set on yellow-gold, representing the eye lashes.
Prior to the September 21st auction, based on the pre-sale estimates, top lot of the sale was assigned to Lot 163 titled “Pair of Emerald and Diamond Earrings,” with a pre-sale estimate of GBP 26,000-30,000 (USD 34,000-39,000). Astonishingly Lot 163 failed to perform according to expectations, despite being a lot set with two precious stones, diamonds and emeralds of very high quality grades. Lot 163 sold for a price of only GBP 32,500, just slightly above its upper estimate of GBP 30,000. On the contrary, Lot 209 set with relatively cheap semi-precious stones, such as amethyst, turquoise and lapis lazuli performed extremely well at the auctions, registering a much enhanced hammer price of GBP 52,500 which was 10.5 times the lower estimate of GBP 5,000 and 7.5 times the upper estimate of GBP 7,000. The only rational explanation for the astonishing performance of Lot 163, is provenance, the demand for antique and vintage jewels, and outstanding design features.
The provenance of this beautiful pair of gem-set and diamond earclips is entirely to do with its designers and manufacturers, the 170-year-old, renowned jewelry manufacturing and watchmaking company of France, Cartier, who designed and manufactured this stunning pair of earclips in the 1960s. Apart from its outstanding design features, the earclips also have a vintage value, having being manufactured in the 1960s, known as the MId-Century Jewelry Period. Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels,Mauboussin and Boucheron were among the most elite and largest firms in the jewelry world during this period. Artists used organic shapes with jagged edges and detailed surfaces. Animal jewelry, ranging from panthers to serpents and fish, was elaborately detailed, fish gained jeweled scales, birds brightly gemmed feathers, and jeweled eyes. Cartier and later David Webb excelled at creating unique, exquisitely jeweled animal forms. Color was very important and stones began to be used for their hues rather than value. Yellow gold and to some extent platinum and silver were used together with natural gemstones. Popular gemstones included amethyst, turquoise, lapis lazuli and organic stones such as corals and cultured pearls. Cabochon gemstones of all sizes were incorporated with round brilliant cut diamonds and other gemstones in yellow gold.
The second highest selling lot of the sale is Lot 80, titled,”Sapphire and Diamond Clip, circa 1930,” with a pre-sale estimate of a modest GBP 10,000-15,000. The lot sold for a staggering GBP 50,000, which was five times the lower estimate and 3.3 times the upper estimate. Here again the enhanced hammer price for the lot was due to the antique and vintage value. The Sapphire and Diamond Clip manufactured circa 1930 is undoubtedly an Art Deco piece. Some Art Deco features in the clip are :- 1 ) The geometric shape of the ring 2) The geometric shapes of the gemstones used, such as baguette-cut diamonds, clibre-cut sapphires of rectangular, square and trapezoid shapes. 3) The use of platinum or white gold as the metal 4) the use of precious stones in the setting, such as diamonds and blue sapphires. Dimensions of the cabochon sapphire are approximately 21.0 x 14.1 x 10.6 mm.Weight of sapphire 33.90 carats, color medium blue, like most Sri Lanka sapphies, the sapphire is transparent with typical inclusions. Weight of diamonds approximately 1.50-2.50 carats; color-grades H-J; clarity grades VVS-VS.
The third highest selling lot is also a signed piece by Faraone, with Lot no. 244, titled “Ruby and Diamond Parure, Faraone,” and pre-sale estimate of GBP 11,500-12,500. The lot sold for an enhanced price of GBP 47,500, which was 4 times the lower estimate of GBP 11,500 and 3.8 times the upper etimate of GBP 12,500. The parure is made up of three components :- a necklace, bracelet and a pair of ear-clipss. The 38.5 cm (15 ins.), choker length, 18k yellow gold necklace is of swag or festoon design, comprising seven festoons. The neck chain and festoons are claw-set mainly with round brilliant-cut white diamonds and the junctions where the festoons meet the main neck chain, collet-set with four pear-shaped and one round brilliant-cut diamonds. A single oval-shaped ruby is claw-set at the center of the first festoon on either side. Three oval, circular or cushion-cut rubies are claw-set across the remaining five main festoons. Thus there are 17 rubies in the necklace. The necklace is signed Faraone.
The 18 cm yellow gold bracelet of matching design with the necklace, signed Faraone, is made up of five main swags or festoons curving downwards and five curving upwards, claw-set with circular-cut diamonds, and a large oval-cut ruby claw-set at the center of the two overlapping curves. At the point where an upward curving swag/festoon begins and the downward curving festoon ends, a rosette of collet-set, four pearshaped diamonds and one round brilliant-cut diamond is situated. Hence, there are two such rosettes between two overlapping swags, and eight such rosettes between the five overlapping curves, which together with a single rosette at either end of the bracelet makes 10 rosettes in all. A second circular-cut ruby is claw-set between two rossettes, and a single such ruby near the clasp of the bracelet, making a total of ten rubies in the bracelet.
Each of the pair of earclips is made up of a rosette of diamonds centering around a claw-set, oval-cut ruby. Five of the diamonds in the rosette are collet-set in yellow gold, of which four are pear-shaped and one a round brilliant-cut diamond. The remaining four diamonds in the rosette, are claw-set, round brilliant-cut diamonds. Above the rosette of diamonds a second oval-cut ruby is placed, and on the outer side of this ruby, four collet-set oval-shaped diamonds and five brilliant-cut diamonds are placed. Total weight of diamonds 30-40 carats; estimated color grade I to K and estimated clarity grade VVS to VS and a few SI to I .
Hence, the first three highest selling lots are either signed jewelry or having an antique or vintage value. The fourth highest selling lot is a diamond lot, bearing lot No. 159 and titled “Pair of fancy light yellow diamond earrings,” with a pre-sale estimate of GBP 25,000 – 35,000. The lot sold for GBP 43,750 which is 1.25 times the upper estimate of GBP 35,000.
The fifth highest selling lot is another signed piece by Cartier, designed in the 1960s, bearing lot No. 210 and titled ““Gem set and Diamond Bracelet, Cartier, 1960s,” with a presale estimate of GBP 8,000-12,000. This bracelet is a matching piece to lot 209 a “Pair of Gem-set and Diamond Ear Clips, Cartier,1960s,” which became the highest selling lot of the auction. Both lots are made of the same colored gemstones, like amethysts, turquoise, lapis lazuli and white diamonds. Like lot 209, lot 210 also sold for a much enhanced hammer price of GBP 43,750, which was 5.5 times the lower estimate and 3.5 times the upper estimate. The enhanced hammer price here can also be attributed to the vintage value, the reputed designer Cartier, and the outstanding design features.
The 6th and 7th highest selling lots are lots 140 and 154, both diamond rings, and lot 154 a signed piece by Bulgari. Lot 140 is a size L platinum ring, claw-set with a step-cut diamond weighing 4.66 carats. The shoulders of the ring are set with tapered baguette-cut diamonds, The shank of the ring is hinged,with an expanding section to allow the ring to go over the knuckle. The 4.66-carat diamond is I-color, and VVS2 clarity. The tapered baguette diamonds are also of the same color and clarity as the main diamond. The lot had a presale estimate of GBP 12,000-18,000. However, the lot sold for an enhanced hammer price of GBP 42, 500 which was 3.5 times the lower estimate of GBP 12,000 and 2.4 times the upper estimate of GBP 18,000. The I-color, VVS2 clarity, the cut-cornered rectangular step-cut, as well as the weight of the diamond, appears to have contributed to the enhanced hammer price of the diamond.
Lot 154 is a “Diamond Ring by Bulgari,” with a pre-sale estimate of GBP 14,000-18,000, but sold for an enhanced hammer price of GBP 37,5000. This is 2.7 times the lower estimate of GBP 14,000 and 2.1 times the upper estimate of GBP 18,000. The size N, platinum ring signed Bulgari, is collet-set with a cushion-cut diamond and the shoulders of the ring pavé-set with brilliant-cut and baguette-cut diamonds. The approximately 4.39-carat, cushion-cut diamond has dimensions of 10.2 x 7.9 x 5.9 mm, is of I/J colour and VVS1/VS clarity. Weight, color and clarity of the diamond are approximate estimations made on the unmounted diamond. Apart from the 4Cs of the diamond, the name of Bulgari had also contributed to the enhanced price realized by the lot.
Lot 163 – “Pair of Emerald and Diamond Earrings,” and the top lot of the sale prior to the auction, with the highest pre-sale estimate of GBP 26,000-30,000 – became the 8th highest selling lot of the sale, registering a hammer price of GBP 32,500, with only a marginal enhancement of GBP 2,500 over the upper estimate of GBP 30,000. The pair of drop earrings have a perfectly matching pair of drop-shaped emeralds, with a dark green color, transparent and total weight of 47.41 carats. The marquise and pear-shaped diamonds on the surmount has a total weight of approximately 6.66 carats with a color grade varying from I to K and clarity grade ranging from from SI to I.
Lot 148 – “Ruby and diamond parure,” with a pre-sale estimate of GBP 22,000-36,000 was the next highest selling lot of the sale. The parure consisting of a necklace, bracelet and matching pair of ear-clips, sold within the pre-sale estimate for GBP 32,500. Not being a signed lot and perhaps with contemporary design features, without any antique or vintage value, the lot failed to perform as the signed lots from reputed designers/jewelry houses.
A “Collection of Bangles by Van Cleef & Arpels, circa 1970s” with lot No. 225, was the 10th highest selling lot of the sale, registering an enhanced hammer price of GBP 30,000 which was 5.8 times the lower estimate of GBP 5,100 and 4.7 times the upper estimate of GBP 6,400. The 18k, yellow gold bangles with a total weight of 247 grams, consist of six bangles of twisted design, five of which are accented with brilliant-cut diamonds. The inner circumference of four bangles 19 cm and the remaining two bangles 17 cm. Four bangles signed VCA, one bangle partially signed and the other unsigned. The enhanced hammer price realized in this case too clearly demonstrates the demand for signed jewelry from the 20th-century.
Other lots that clearly demonstrated the demand for signed jewelry from the 20th-century are lots 79, 257, 72and 59.
Lot 79 is a “Diamond Double-Clip Brooch, Cartier, 1930s,” The brooch of “ruyi” design show geometric design features of the Art Deco period, apart from the use of white metal and baguette-cut diamonds, also characteristic of this period. Each brooch is set with circular, square and baguette-cut diamonds. The brooch fitting is accented with baguette diamonds. Each clip is signed “Cartier.” Estimaed weight of diamonds 5.00-7.00 carats.; estimated color G-I and estimated average clarity VS. The lot registered a hammer price of GBP 27,500 which is 3.4 times the lower estimate of GBP 8,000 and 2.3 times the upper estimate of GBP 12,000.
Lot 257 is another vintage piece by Cartier, designed in the 1940s. The lot titled “Citrine and Sapphire Brooch, Cartier 1940s has a presale estimate of GBP 5,000-7,000 (USD 6,500-9,000). The animal motif brooch designed as a stylized “fox cub” is set with mixed cut citrines and cabochon blue sapphire eyes. The citrines are deep brownish-orange , transparent and with typical inclusions found in citrines. The body of the fox cub is set with an oval-cut citrine, the head with a pear-shaped citrine, the four legs with rectangular-cut citrines, the tail with a small pear cut citrine and the two ears with square-cut citrines. The eyes are set with cabochon-cut blue sapphires. All gemstones are set on 18k yellow gold. The lot sold for an enhanced hammer price of GBP 27,500 which was 5.5 times the lower estimate of GBP 5,000 and 3.9 times the upper estimate of GBP 7,000.
Lot 72 – a “Natural Pearl and Diamond Brooch by Buccellati, 1960s,” had a pre-sale estimate of only GBP 5,000-7,000 placed on it, but sold for a much enhanced price of GBP 25,000 which was 5 times the lower estimate of GBP 5,000 and 3.5 times the upper estimate of GBP 7,000. The 18k white gold brooch designed as a flower is set with a natural near-spherical pearl of greyish-purple tint with dimensions of 12.7 x 13.3 mm, at the center representing the pistil, surrounded by a whorl of petals set with mainly pear-shaped diamonds and a few marquise-shaped diamonds. The flower arises from a part of the stem bearing leaves. The leaves are set with round brilliant-cut diamonds.
Lot 59 – is a “Diamond Ring by Kutchinsky,” with a pre-sale estimate of GBP 6,500-8,500 but sold for an enhanced hammer price of GBP 22,500, which was 3.5 times the lower estimate of GBP 6,500 and 2.6 times the upper estimate of GBP 8,500. The white metal ring signed Kutchinsky is claw-set with a round brilliant-cut diamond weighing 4.98 carats with tapered baguette-cut diamonds on its shoulders. The 4.98-carat diamond is L-color (faint yellow color), I1 clarity (included with inclusions visible to naked eye). The enhanced price realized is no doubt because the lot is a signed piece by the London-based jewelry firm Kutchinsky, founded in the 1890s.