Pearls and exotic stones fuel Sotheby’s record jewellery results

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Sotheby’s record 2014 jewellery sales confirm a growing clamour for pearls as pollution impacts the pearl fishing industry. The results also highlight the enduring appeal of precious stones, most notably Burmese rubies, Kashmir sapphires and fine emeralds from Colombia. There is continued strong demand for fine quality coloured diamonds.

That is the view of David Bennett, chairman of Sotheby’s Jewellery Division in Europe and the Middle East, speaking after the announcement that 2014 was the third consecutive year of record jewellery sales at Sotheby’s.

“Discerning collectors also continue to seek out jewels and stones with important noble or historical provenance, for example Queen Josephine’s Pearl Necklace: formerly in the collection of Joséphine de Beauharnais, Queen of Sweden and Norway (1807-1876), it was likely once the property of Joséphine de Beauharnais (1763-1814), first wife of Napoleon Bonaparte, Empress of France,” he said.

“This result in November illustrates a striking trend: the ever-increasing demand for natural pearls, with many pieces featuring natural pearls selling for many multiples of the pre-sale estimates. Signed jewels, by designers such as Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Harry Winston, JAR and Suzanne Belperron continue to be particularly sought after by discerning collectors too.”

Sotheby’s reported jewellery sales of $603m for 2014, with 3,900 lots sold to 2,400 clients from 74 countries. Some 77 jewels exceeded $1m and 69% of all sold lots exceeded their high estimates. Over 1000 lots were competed for online, and the auction house reported thousands of Instagram posts to #SothebysJewels, indicating that customers’ online engagement continues to grow.

Besides highlighting the appeal of coloured diamonds, pearls and jewels with significant provenance, the results also indicated a burgeoning market for natural jadeite.

“The thriving auction market for natural jadeite, primarily in Asia, has gone from strength to strength in recent years, driven by the scarcity of quality boulders and the growing demand of buyers from Greater China and Southeast Asia,” said Sotheby’s in a release.

“Extraordinary prices were paid for top-quality jadeite in 2014, led by the Hutton-Mdivani Necklace, fashioned by Cartier with jadeite beads from the Qing court, which was purchased by the Cartier Collection for a record price that is surpassed at auction only by diamonds.”