Christie’s Geneva held an exceptional auction of Magnificent Jewels on Tuesday afternoon in Geneva. On the block at the Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues were magnificent natural pearl necklaces, exceptional emeralds, and treasures from pre-eminent and royal collections. With 184 lots offered, the sale realized $125.2 million, with a remarkable 88% sold rate. The highlight of Tuesday’s event was the record-breaking sale of The Orange, the world’s largest Fancy Vivid Orange diamond.
In a breathtaking finale to the eight-hour marathon sale, The Orange was snapped up for $35.5 million – a world record for any diamond at an auction. The Orange was estimated to sell for $17 million – $20 million, but a late surge led by a buyer at the back of the room resulted in a realized price of $2.398 million per carat. A 14.82 carat pear-shaped gem, The Orange was the largest Fancy Vivid Orange diamond ever to appear for sale at auction. The price realized includes both the hammer price and the buyer’s premium.
According to an addendum by the Gemological Institute of America, true orange diamonds are exceptionally rare, and seldom exceed three to four carats after cutting and polishing. The previous largest fancy vivid orange diamond ever sold at auction was not quite 6 carats – less than half the size of the present gem.
The record set Tuesday is not expected to stand for very long. Sotheby’s closes the fall auction season in Geneva on Wednesday with the sale of the 59.60 carat Pink Star diamond, an internally flawless gem that is expected to fetch upwards of $60 million. The previous record for most expensive diamond at auction was set in 2010, when a 24.78 carat pink diamond was sold for $46.2 million to British jeweler Sir Laurence Graff, also at Sotheby’s Geneva.
Pearls: Queen of Gems, Gem of Queens
With over 40 lots offered (15 natural pearl strands), pearls reigned supreme in Geneva. The largest and most famous of these lots was a spectacular seven-strand natural pearl and diamond necklace. The necklace contains 614 natural saltwater pearls, approx. 5 mm to 17 mm, secured with a diamond-set bar clasp, and was estimated to sell for $3 million – $4 million. Offered as the property of a Royal Family, the necklace doubled its pre-sale estimate and achieved $9.1 million.
Also up for auction was an antique seed pearl and diamond ‘scarf’ necklace that originally owned by HRH Princess Elisabeth of Saxony. Offered for sale by the Royal Family of Savoy, this necklace is composed of seven sections of seed pearls linked with diamond-set beads and terminating with seed pearl tassels, circa 1900. The necklace sold for $43,000, almost doubling the pre-sale estimate of $16,500 – $22,000.
Emeralds are certainly proving to be the color of the year for Christie’s. The Geneva sale auctioned 35 emeralds lots, including this important emerald, diamond and gem-set leaf brooch, by JAR. One of three lots by the famously reclusive jeweler, this 1989 brooch exemplifies the very best in JAR’s work, especially his skill in matching and blending colored gems. It was expected to sell for $510,000 – $700,000, but achieved a price realized of over $1.2 million.
Christie’s also brought up for sale items from several noted estates, including Helene Rochas and three items from the coffers of Bolivian tycoon Simon Itturi Patino, known as “The Tin King” and “The Andean Rockefeller” for his vast wealth. The highlight of Patino’s collection was this magnificent emerald and diamond necklace, by Cartier. Designed by Cartier London in 1937, the necklace was created as a vehicle for “The Andean Cross”, a priceless solid emerald cross pendant with very royal provenance. It was once owned by Queen Eugenia Victoria of Spain, Queen Isabel II of Spain, and Empress Eugenie of France.
Patino purchased the necklace for his wife Albina in January of 1938, but the pendant was later sold to Van Cleef & Arpels, and the necklace shortened to its present state. The leftover sections were converted into a pair of matching earrings, also offered at Tuesday’s sale. The necklace achieved $9.9 million, just above its pre-sale estimate of $7.1 million – $9.4 million, while the earrings doubled their estimated $413,000 – $620,000, and sold for a final $1.2 million.
Also up for sale were several rare examples of emerald jewels from the Art Deco era. The Indian tradition of emerald carving originated with the tradition of carving the name of the Moghul emperor into a stone. This evolved into foliate and floral motifs, and was meant to respect the stone and to enhance its beauty. Carved emeralds slowly made their way to Europe in the early 20th century, and became a mainstay of the finest Art Deco style gems. This multi-gem and diamond brooch, by Cartier, ($27,000 – $38,000) which features jeweled birds underneath a carved emerald tree with diamond trunk, sold for $88,000, while another exceptional Art Deco piece, an emerald and diamond necklace, by Van Cleef & Arpels, sold for $371,000. Estimated at $261000 – $359,000, the necklace features a detachable pendant with a 18.90 carat drop-shaped emerald carved in a poppy motif and set on a diamond and emerald bead necklace.
The items in Tuesday’s auction have been available for public viewing at the Four Seasons Hotel since Friday.