Code Blue
Amber Michelle - Chief Curator and Storyteller

Sapphires and blue diamonds were stars at the December New York Magnificent Jewelry auctions.

New York City was decorated for the holidays, lights were twinkling all around town and the Rockefeller Center tree was shining brightly. Inside Sotheby’s and Christie’s auction houses the jewels were at their sparkling best during the sales held the first week of December 2017.

Fancy vivid blue diamond ring was the top lot at Sotheby’s New York December 2017 sale. Photo courtesy Sotheby’s

The first sale was held at Sotheby’s Upper Eastside headquarters where jewelry dealers and privates convened to bid for a well edited selection of jewelry. The room was bustling and the bidding was very lively as buyers competed for stylish, wearable jewels that included numerous signed pieces from some of the most iconic designers. Blue was the color of the day as a 5.69-carat, emerald cut fancy vivid blue, VVS1 diamond ring took the top spot as the most expensive item sold. The ring sold to an anonymous buyer for $15,130,800 or $2,659,192 per carat. All prices in this article include buyer’s premium.

Van Cleef & Arpels, Paris sold at Sotheby’s New York December 2017 sale.
Photo courtesy Sotheby’s.

The true star of the sale was a Van Cleef & Arpels, Paris, blue sapphire and diamond bracelet, circa 1935. This spectacular bracelet had everything one could possibly want in a jewel. It showcased five sugarloaf cabochon blue sapphires from Ceylon weighing a total of approximately 193.73 carats, all connected by articulated diamond links. The bracelet sold to a private collector for $3,135,000. “It is an amazing one-of-a-kind bracelet that sold for a very substantial price that represents the true beauty and uniqueness of that piece,” commented Gary Schuler, chairman, North and South America, International Jewelry Sotheby’s, after the sale.

Of particular note were 13 lots designated “Icons: A Celebration of the World’s Most Coveted Jewels.”In the Sotheby’s catalog notes the pieces were described as “…high-impact, incredibly stylish and indisputably iconic.” Each piece in the collection was from a well-known name— Van Cleef & Arpels, Cartier, Tiffany & Co., JAR, Bulgari, Chanel, David Webb and Verdura. These very wearable jewels showcasing the essence of the designers’ creativity included the — The “Magic Alhambra” diamond necklace, Van Cleef & Arpels, Paris; a double panther bracelet in diamonds and onyx by Cartier; a David Webb white enamel fish bangle. But perhaps the most storied — and talked about — of the pieces was the diamond and green garnet leek brooch by JAR. The story goes that a customer came to JAR many years ago and asked him to design something. “What’s your favorite vegetable?” he asked his client. Her answer: a leek. And so the lowly relative to an onion was elevated to jeweled art. Further adding its status, the leek has been in two museum exhibitions — The Jewels By JAR, Paris, The Somerset House, London, 2002 through 2003 and Jewels by JAR, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, November 2013 through March 2014. The leek was not only meant to be worn, but it came in its own pearl accented box so that it can be displayed as art when not being worn. It sold for a whopping $1,515,000 to an anonymous buyer.

JAR diamond and green garnet Leek brooch sold in Sotheby’s New York December sale. Photo courtesy Sotheby’s.

Generally speaking, Schuler noted that “the market continues to show its strength in colored stones, with results from this sale driven by intense competition for important colored diamonds, sapphires and emeralds in particular.”

The 211 lot sale garnered $53,935,050 and was sold 82 percent by lot and 79 percent by value. This compares to the April 2017 sale of $28,977,875 for 252 lots and the December 2016 sale, which pulled in $25,153,750 for 455 lots.


The next day at Christie’s, in Rockfeller Center, a blue diamond ring once again took top honors as the most expensive lot of the sale. A twin-stone fancy vivid blue diamond ring by Graff, with one diamond weighing 3.36-carats and the other weighing 2.71 carats sold to a dealer for $12,575,000 or $2,070,000 per carat. “To have two blue diamonds of this quality perfectly matched in color and both potentially internally flawless set in a ring by Graff is a rare opportunity in today’s marketplace, “ said Rahul Kadakia, international head of jewelry, Christie’s. “Nothing is comparable to a truly beautiful blue diamond. A fine blue color combined with the fire and brilliance that can only be exhibited by a diamond makes for a combination that is simply unique. The fact that blue diamonds in any level of saturation make up a very small percentage of all gem quality diamonds has led to increased desirability.”

Twin-stone vivid blue diamond ring by Graff sold at Christie’s New York
December sale. Photo courtesy Christie’s

Bidding was aggressive in a full sale room. Buyers were bidding so heavily and persistently that the sale  continued until 7:00 pm. “When it runs late that means that there was a lot of bidding.” said Kadakia, after the sale was over. “That is the sign of a successful sale.”The sale was filled with lots of jewelry, numerous objets — including jeweled evening bags, compacts, clocks — and even several lots of loose diamonds. One of the most intriguing items in the sale was an Art Deco cuff designed by Adolphe Mouron Dit Cassandre for Georges Fouquet. Cassandre was a graphic designer in Paris known for his poster art and Fouquet a jewelry maker. The two collaborated on several pieces of jewelry and this cuff bracelet is one of the remaining pieces. It draws inspiration from the Cubist movement and features bold colors and a play of light and shadow by contrasting opaque hardstones — lapis lazuli and coral with transparent gems — amethyst, aquamarine and diamonds. The border on the bracelet features platinum on one half and 18-karat gold on the other half. A true work of art, this piece was coveted by numerous buyers and bidding was intense before it finally sold for $924,500 to a dealer from Europe.

Art Deco cuff designed by Adolphe Mouron Dit Cassandre for Georges Fouquet sold at Christie’s New York December sale. Photo courtesy Christie’s.

The color combination and streamlined silhouette made this bracelet a rare survivor from the Art Deco period,” said Kadakia. “It rightfully attracted worldwide attention and sold for well above its high estimate of $600,000.”

The 385 lot sale, tallied up $62,592,750 and was sold 88 percent by lot and 85 percent by value. The April 2017 sale brought in $35,238,100 for 328 lots and the December 2016 sale garnered $51,253,625 for 316 lots.

This round of New York December auctions demonstrated that jewelry is, in some instances, gaining stature and being recognized as an art form that, because it is worn on the body is uniquely personal.