As online sales at the world’s leading auction houses are demonstrating, jewelry has never been so easy (and tempting) to buy. When you talk about an ‘auction’, ordered seats, numbered paddles and a fast-talking auctioneer are a few images that spring to mind. Increasingly, however, savvy local collectors are buying jewels at auctions from the comfort of their home—a trend that has seen a remarkable upward turn, since lockdown over the last few months had confined most of us indoors.
Pair of citrine and rhodolite garnet Byzantine earclips, Verdura. Sold for $13,750, Sotheby’s New York
“Unprecedented times are often a catalyst for change, crystallizing pre-existing trends and accelerating innovations,” comments David Bennett, Worldwide Chairman of Sotheby’s Jewelry Division. “In the past few weeks, we’ve seen the jewelry market further completing its digital revolution; our online sales realized some of their best performances ever, with many new and young collectors from around the world joining.”
Here, I round up the bejeweled highlights of Sotheby’s record-breaking online sales amidst the ongoing pandemic.
Enamel and opal necklace, Alexis Falize, 1890s, and enamel and ruby bracelet, circa 1840, against fabric from La DoubleJ. Sold for £21,250 and £5,250, respectively, Sotheby’s London
Since the virus outbreak began, Sotheby’s first Fine Jewels Online auction, took place in New York, where a whopping 97 percent of all lots were sold. With buyers heralding from all over the globe, including the Middle East, the auction demonstrated the appeal of accessibly-priced fine jewels, with pieces by American jewelers David Webb, Tiffany & Co and Verdura flying off the auction shelves.
Violet sapphire and diamond ring, circa 1910. Sold for £62,500, Sotheby’s London
Meanwhile in London, the city’s lockdown announcement on 23 March meant that the Fine Jewels sale there was moved online. Not that this did any harm, as its $3.7million (Dhs13,588,250) total was a record for an online jewelry auction. Colored stones were highly sought-after, with a watermelon tourmaline ring soaring past its £1,000-2,000 (Dhs4,522-9,045) estimate to reach £20,000 (Dhs90,454), and a 9.80-carat violet sapphire ring selling for £62,500 (Dhs282,577) against its estimate of £4,000-6,000 (Dhs18,085-27,127).
In the clearest demonstration that collectors are also comfortable buying higher value items online, Sotheby’s chose the lockdown period to hold a single-lot online sale of a sensational Tutti Frutti bracelet by Cartier, estimated at $600,000-800,000 (Dhs2,203,500-2,938,000). When it sold for $1.34million (Dhs 4,921,887) on 28 April, it became the most expensive piece of jewelry sold in an online-only auction format. This masterpiece of Art Deco jewelry comes from a distinguished American collection and is set with carved rubies, emeralds and sapphires with diamonds, onyx and enamel.
Fancy vivid yellow diamond and diamond ring. Sold for HK$275,000, Sotheby’s Hong Kong
‘White glove’ is the phrase used for those rare auctions where 100 percent of lots sell—a feat enjoyed by the Hong Kong Fine Jewels sale in April. All pieces were snapped up over the space of barely a week, including 19th century jewels, colored diamonds, and designs by Graff and Cartier.
Pink sapphire and diamond ring, 1970s. Sold for £3,750, Sotheby’s London
For those who prefer not to wait for auction, ‘buy now’ options are available online. An enamel and diamond Serpenti bracelet-watch by Bvlgari and an Art Deco diamond brooch by Cartier are just a few of the treasures available for immediate purchase through Sotheby’s private sales page, with none of the agony of being outbid.