Rapaport Magazine

Christie’s Hong Kong Sets Record

The best of the best and a personal touch made for a successful sale.

By Ettagale Blauer
RAPAPORT... By It has become almost routine to report record prices at auction, but Christie’s Hong Kong scored a truly staggering achievement at its November 30 sale of Magnificent Jewelry and Jadeite Jewelry. The sold total reached $39,358,930, a record for any jewelry auction in Asia. Moreover, it achieved this tremendous success, with 80 percent of the lots sold, just six weeks after Sotheby’s Hong Kong managed to sell only 64 percent of its lots for a total of $22.4 million. Clearly, it’s not the marketplace, but the marketer that is making the difference between these two houses.

Befitting the venue, Christie’s top lot was a single-strand jadeite necklace, featured on the cover of the catalog. This 63-bead necklace, with beads ranging from 10.3 to 11.2 millimeters brought $2,927,600*, and was purchased by an Asian private. In fact, seven of the ten top lots were bought by Asian privates. The necklace was an example of the finest-quality jadeite, with each bead perfectly matched in color. The beads were all carved from the same piece of jadeite, allowing the piece to reach this level of perfection. In addition, they were of a highly desired intensity and purity of color, the emerald green that marks the finest jadeite.

Christie’s was successful in diverse categories, including a sugarloaf Burmese cabochon ruby weighing 37.52 carats. The stone carried two lab reports, one from Gübelin and one from SSEF Swiss Gemmological Institute, stating that the ruby was of Burmese origin, with no indications of heating. It was set in a fine platinum and diamond mounting. This lot fetched $1,253,200, also from an Asian private. The top diamond lot in the sale, a marquise-shaped D, IF diamond weighing 10.86 carats, was sold just below the high estimate for $1,209,520, or $111,500 per carat. The stone exhibited the charm of an antique cut diamond, and was classified as type IIa. This rare diamond — rare because of its size, cut and clarity — was bought by an Asian private.

Fancy color diamonds once again caught the fancy of buyers. Among the top lots was a cut-cornered, square-cut fancy vivid yellow, VS1 stone weighing 19.04 carats. It was set in 18-karat yellow gold with a surround of yellow diamonds. It was sold for $1,063,920, or $56,000 per carat. Another fancy, this one a marquise cut, very light pink, IF diamond weighing 15.47 carats, brought $962,000 or $62,000 per carat. Although light pink, this stone’s remarkable size allowed it to display a fair amount of color. It was set beautifully in a diamond frame that both highlighted and protected the pointed shape.


In her statement following the sale, Vickie Sek, director of the Jewellery and Jadeite Department, Christie’s Asia, said, “The market showed incredible depth at all levels, including exceptional jadeite, rare diamonds and unusual gemstones.” However, in an interview following the sale, she points to the secret of her success — if a public auction can be described as “secret.” “I’m very selective for my sourcing. I always put myself on the buyers’ point of view on the design and prices. I will think of to whom I can sell the item, who is looking for what and whether it matches my client’s items,” says Sek.

Having such an intimate knowledge of a client base to the point that Sek can track a client’s jewelry wardrobe is the essence of a highly successful and much appreciated personal shopper. She has penetrated to the very heart and soul of her client base. She chooses the finest example in each category, but only when she has a fair idea that there is already a client for the piece. This was, after all, a 443-lot sale, and she needed to make those matches, time after time.

Sek’s ability to seek out goods and secure them at a realistic price is the hallmark of her achievement. It is for that reason, she adds, “some dealers think I’m too tough.” She holds firm to the price she thinks an object will bring. That is why Christie’s sales aren’t cluttered with goods that don’t sell, and that bring down the sold percentage. But percentages aside, her sales are also noteworthy for consistently bringing solid totals.

Sek is dealing with an ever more confident and sophisticated clientele. Privates have become the major factor in these auctions, certainly at the highest levels. “When I joined Christie’s 12 years ago,” she recalls, “not many privates knew auctions. The sale was $1.6 million in 1994.” Compare that with this total, just a dozen years later. “In Asia,” Sek says, “most ladies are very independent and they can buy for themselves. Of course, men buy for women as well. When private clients like something, they will go for it without calculating how much per carat. That’s why we can achieve such strong prices.”


Two significant diamond necklaces brought excellent prices as well. A magnificent diamond fringe necklace was sold above the high estimate for $1,063,920. The unsigned necklace featured three rows of pear, oval and marquise cut diamonds suspending five large pear shapes in the center of the piece. The entire piece was set in platinum and featured well over 100 diamonds, each of impressive size.

At the other end of the design spectrum was an elegant diamond-set chain suspending a diamond briolette weighing 13.08 carats. The stone was D, IF, and classified by the Gübelin Gem Lab as being a type IIa diamond, notable for its purity. The pendant necklace was sold for $860,080, or $66,000 per carat.

Many elements went into the success of this sale. The selection of goods and the pacing of lots, the back-and-forth rhythm between jadeite and Western jewelry, period pieces and important diamonds, all contributed to an interesting and entertaining event. While the style of the jewelry varied considerably, the quality did not. This is a market that continues to show an insatiable appetite for the best of the best — in colored gemstones, diamonds, colored diamonds, jewelry and jadeite.

*All prices include buyer’s premium.

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - January 2007. To subscribe click here.

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