Bejeweled Glamour
Amber Michelle - Chief Curator & Storyteller

Posh hotels were the perfect background for the opulent jewelry that was auctioned off during the Geneva spring sales of Magnificent Jewels, held in mid-May. The Geneva sales always offer some of the most impressive jewelry, even by auction standards. These sales were no exception, as fabulous diamonds, colored gemstones and jewelry that truly shows the artistry of the designer went on the block.

Model wearing the 51.71-carat round brilliant-cut diamond ring and the 50.39-carat oval cut diamond ring/Photo courtesy Sotheby’s

Sotheby’s held the first sale of the week at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Geneva. This was a sale that had something for everyone — fabulous diamonds, beautiful signed jewels, colored gemstones and, to cap it all off, the Farnese Blue diamond with its royal provenance.
The 375-lot sale had three sessions, two daytime and one evening, complete with models wearing the glamorous jewels. Two diamonds both discovered in Botswana, both over 50 carats and D flawless, were the top two lots of the sale. The top lot was a 51.71-carat, D flawless, type IIa, round brilliant-cut diamond. It sold to a private buyer in Asia for $9,251,851 or $178,918 per carat. The second top lot of the sale was a 50.39-carat, D flawless, type IIa oval-shaped diamond ring that sold to an anonymous bidder for $8,123,845, or $161,219 per carat.

Farnese Blue Diamond/Photo courtesy Sotheby’s

The royal and historic Farnese Blue diamond, which was much anticipated, took the third top spot in the sale. The Farnese Blue’s fascinating provenance was first documented in 1714-1715. In 1714 King Philip V of Spain married his second wife, Elizabeth Farnese. A war that had been going on for 12 years in Spain had just ended, leaving the King broke. To provide a dowry for his bride, word was sent to the Spanish colonies to send wedding gifts for the Queen to Madrid. Among those gifts was a pear-shaped blue diamond, which was given to the queen by the governor of the Philippine Islands. It has remained in the family — out of the public eye — for the past 300 years.

The Farnese Blue was the last lot of the evening. The raucous crowd in the sale room finally quieted down when the 6.16-carat, fancy dark gray blue, SI1 clarity diamond came on the block. There was very competitive bidding on the gem, which finally sold to an anonymous buyer on the phone for $6,713,837, or $1,089,909 per carat.

“The Farnese Blue is an exceptional diamond in its own right: enormously rare and with a very rich, saturated color that ranks it among the most unforgettable diamonds we have ever offered at Sotheby’s,” said Daniela Mascetti, Deputy Chairman, Jewellery Europe and Senior International Specialist. “Add to this the incredible history of the stone — tracing back 300 years to 1715, and having been cherished by successive generations of the same family through four European royal dynasties — and you have a truly extraordinary combination.”


Van Cleef & Arpels Zip necklace and matching earrings/Photo courtesy Sotheby’s

As if that were not enough to leave one breathless, the sale also offered some very fine signed jewels, including an iconic Zip necklace by Van Cleef & Arpels. The necklace, which converts to a bracelet and came with matching earrings, was set with diamonds, emeralds, rubies and sapphires. A true masterpiece of design, the Zip necklace, circa 1950s, was wildly popular, with buyers bidding very aggressively. It finally sold for $506,554, ten times its low estimate.

The sale totalled up $85,629,630 and was sold 82 percent by lot. An impressive 70 percent of the lots sold above their high estimate and 15 pieces sold for over $1 million. In addition, another five auction records were set for colored diamonds during the sale. Please see Auction Record Setters blog post for details.

“Looking at the success of the auction more widely, I would also point to the unrivaled quality of the two perfect white diamonds over 50 carats, which both sold over the high estimate, as well as a very fine selection of signed pieces,” commented Mascetti. “These very different gemstones and jewels appealed to a very wide audience and I think that translated into the high energy that we felt in the sale room.”

Harry Winston 50.47-carat D, VVS1 diamond ring/Photo courtesy Christie’s

The high energy continued the next day at Christie’s, where once again a 50-plus-carat diamond was the top lot of the day. The two-session sale — one daytime, one evening — took place at Geneva’s Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues. The sale moved at a brisk pace, with the 415-lot sale seeing some serious bidding. The evening session started a few minutes late and ran until about 11:00 pm, always a sign of active bidding.

The evening ended with a bang when a 50.47-carat D, VVS1, potentially flawless diamond ring from Harry Winston sold for $6,500,000, or $129,000 per carat, to Essex Global Trading, a New York City–based wholesaler. Colored diamonds had a strong presence in the sale, with four of them finding their way into the top ten list of highest prices paid during the sale.

Begining of post: Lion Couché shoulder brooch by René Boivin/Photo courtesy Christie’s
Etoile de Mer brooches by René Boivin/Photo courtesy Christie’s

While the auction offered some spectacular diamonds and gemstones — which sold for very solid prices — it was some of the signed pieces of jewelry that created much of the excitement. An articulated lion shoulder brooch of colored diamonds, white diamonds and emeralds by René Boivin was a crowd favorite, with numerous bidders driving the final price to $456,500, well over the $150,000 to $250,000 estimate. There were several Boivin pieces in the sale that all sold well, particularly two starfish brooches. One comprised of rubies and amethysts sold for $125,465 and the second, made up of emeralds and aquamarines, sold for $150,558. The first starfish brooches were drawn by Juliette Moutard and meticulously crafted by Boivin for the actress Claudette Colbert. The two in this auction are a tribute to the creativity and craftsmanship of these two jewellers.

“René Boivin has always had a great following and between the ‘lion couche’ and the ‘étoiles de mer,’ we had multiple bidders wanting to add these to their collections,” explained Rahul Kadakia, International Head of Jewelry, Christie’s. “These pieces are truly jewelry as an art form, where one does not look into the intrinsic value of the stones. It is all about the design and craftsmanship.”

The sale totaled $81,620,500 and was sold 88 percent by lot and 91 percent by value. In addition,16 lots sold for over $1 million. “The market in general is very strong and reacted positively to all that was on offer during Geneva sale week,” concluded Kadakia.

All prices quoted throughout this blog include buyer’s premium, unless price is an estimate.