Between $30-50m (£23.1m-£38.5m) is the expected price the Pink Legacy diamond is expected to fetch at the Magnificent Jewels auction on 13 November at Christie’s in Geneva.
“The saturation, the intensity of this stone is as good as it gets in a coloured diamond,” says Rahul Kadakia, international head of jewellery at Christie’s. “To find a diamond of this size with this colour is pretty much unreal, you may see this colour in a pink diamond of less than one carat. But this is almost 19 carats and it’s as pink as can be. It’s unbelievable.”
The Pink Legacy has been awarded the highest diamond color grading of ‘vivid’ by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). Vivid coloured diamonds are the most strongly saturated gems, displaying the optimum hue of the stone. It is a classic rectangular cut diamond, a cut that is traditionally used for white stones. In the saleroom fancy vivid pink diamonds of over 10 carats are virtually unheard of and only four vivid pink diamonds of over 10 carats have ever been offered for sale at auction. It is also the latest high-profile jewel to be ready to go under the hammer at the 250-year-old auction house.
Over those 250 years François Curiel, chairman for Europe and Asia, has worked at the company for 49 of them. “In June of 1969 when I was on summer leave from studying law at university, my father took me by the hand in Paris and said that he didn’t want me to do ‘nothing’ in the summer and that I should learn better English. He told me he had decided to send me on an internship to Christie’s in London,” explains Curiel.
As his father was in the jewellery business Peter Chance, who was the chairman at the time, decided that Curiel should work in the jewellery department. “I absolutely loved it”, exclaims Curiel. “I was researching, preparing catalogues, sending out catalogues to clients and acting as the middleman between the clients and my boss who appraised the jewellery.”
Curiel recalls that as his internship was drawing to a close and he was preparing to return to Paris someone from the department left their role and instead of spending time trying to find a replacement the role was offered to Curiel: “I called my parents and asked if I could stay and have never left.” He adds: “Next year it will be 50 years since I made that phone call and people always ask why I have worked at one place for so long and I say I was simply lucky to find something I love.”
Curiel has worked at Christie’s in London, Spain, opened its Paris office and in November 2009 was asked to go to Hong Kong to help develop an office in Asia. Until very recently he was the head of Christie’s in Asia before taking on his current role.
During his time at Christie’s Curiel has been involved in the sale of many high-value and famous pieces of Jewellery and details The Perfect Pink, The Peregrina Pearl and The Winston Legacy as some of the most renowned sold under his tenure.
The Perfect Pink – Sold: 29 November 2010, Hong Kong – Price: $23,165,968
The most expensive jewel ever sold in Asia at the time, the Perfect Pink, was a 14.23-carat diamond, sold for over $23m to an anonymous buyer after an intense bidding war. The pink diamond was expected to fetch between $14 million and $19 million. Of the diamond, Curiel says: “The Perfect Pink is a 14ct pink diamond – not just pink but real pink – as sometimes it is pink for the seller and brown for the buyer, but there is no controversy for this, as it is was pink as they come and was extremely clean with only a tiny tiny imperfection.
“It was beautiful rectangular cut diamond on the four corners and at the time it was the most beautiful pink we had ever seen. It brought nearly US$23m which was a very strong price. The size and the colour was what made it so special – pink diamonds exist in 2,3,4 or 5 carats but if you ask me to find a 15-carat diamond of this quality I don’t think I can find you one especially considering the colour is so strong.”
La Peregrina Pearl – Sold: 13 December 2011, New York – Price: $11,842,500
La Peregrina is one of the most famous pearls in the world. Its history spans almost 500 years, and it has passed from the African slave who found it at Pearl Islands in the Gulf of Panama, to European kings and queens. More recently, the pearl belonged to Elizabeth Taylor. The original weight of this pear-shaped pearl at 223.8 grains. At the time of its discovery, it was the largest pearl ever found. In 1913 the pearl had to be drilled and cleaned to secure it firmly to its setting. After drilling and cleaning, the pearl’s weight decreased to 203.84 grains. La Peregrina remains one of the largest perfectly symmetrical pear-shaped pearls in the world.
“The Peregrina Pearl came from Elizabeth Taylor and is a sensational piece of jewellery because it is the same Peregrina Pearl from the late 16th Century and is one of the most magical pearls in the world”, he reflects. “It had fabulous provenance and a interesting story. I spent a lot of time with Elizabeth when we appraised the piece and I was amazed by how much she knew about the geographical provenance of the colour stones and the quality of diamond and lack of inclusion, the jeweller and so on.
“Normally with these the owners, they have a love of jewellery but not an intimate understanding of what it is, which was not the case of Elizabeth. We ended having a conversation as if we were two professionals. It was not only a rare piece of jewellery because of its provenance but also because of who it also belonged to.”
The Winston Legacy – Sold: 15 May 2013, Geneva – Price $26,737,914
Billed by the auction house as the “perfect diamond,” the price paid set a world auction record for a colorless diamond. The 101 carat diamond (which sold for $254,400 per carat) was acquired by Harry Winston just months after the brand was acquired themselves by the Swatch Group.
“101 carat D-colour, completely flawless. Again they cannot come any better there was no imperfection whatsoever. A fabulous and perfect diamond which was purchased by Harry Winston, thus the name. Everything about this piece is just triple-A,” comments Curiel.
Along with these pieces Curiel cites signed pieces from very famous makers from the ‘20s and ‘30s like Van Cleef, Bucherer, Bulgari are all in “great demand”. He explains it is because some of those pieces contain “beautiful Colombian emeralds or cashmere sapphires or Goldconda diamonds from India”. He says these older pieces contain “those types of rare gems and are so difficult to find today – when we can find some of pieces featuring these rare stones it always brings in higher auction sales”.
This is a sentiment shared by Emily Barber, head of the UK jewellery department at Bonham’s: “I think it’s fair to say that there is an increase in demand for the very best examples in period jewellery and top-quality gemstones. Superlative jewels that are new to the market tend to come from old private collections and thus a diminishing pool so when they appear at auction they generate enormous interest with our global buyers.”
During her time at Bonhams Barber has presided over a number of record-breaking auction results, including the sale of ‘The Hope Spinel’.
The Hope Spinel – Sold: 24th September 2015, London – Price: £962,500
A 50-carat spinel that once sat alongside The Hope Diamond in the great 19th Century gem collection belonging to Henry Philip Hope. This historic jewel was sold to international acclaim by Bonhams London in September 2015 for a world record price of £962,500 – a world record price for a spinel at auction.
Describing the piece, Barber explains the spinel came from a private collection and had not been seen on the market since 1917. “Through extensive and brand-new research undertaken by Bonhams, we were able to prove that it had once been owned by 19th Century connoisseur Henry Philip Hope,” she says. “Hope’s collection of precious gems, diamonds and natural pearls was one of the finest ever assembled. Hope also owned the ‘Hope Diamond’, a 45.52ct Fancy Deep Blue diamond, believed to have belonged to Louis XIV of France and now in the National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC.”
Fancy Deep Blue diamond, ‘trombino’ ring, by Bulgari – Sold: 24 April 2013 – Price: £6,201,250
The fancy deep-blue diamond is set in a ‘Trombino’ ring made by Bulgari, the renowned Italian jeweller favored by Hollywood film stars, and the epitome of fashion and innovation during the 1960s. The ring was made circa 1965 and set an auction world record of US$1.8m price per carat, for a fancy deep blue diamond, a record Bonhams still holds.
Barber says: “At the time the blue diamond was sold in 2013, fewer than 30 fancy blue diamonds, weighing over 5cts in weight, had appeared at auction in the previous 10 years, giving a good indication just how rare exceptional and large coloured diamonds are. The diamond had a high degree of transparency and ‘liquid fire’ and had a beautiful flat antique cut that suggested it might have been from an old Indian mine, perhaps even the legendary Golconda mines that are known to have yielded the world’s most famous historic blue diamonds.”
THE STATE OF THE AUCTION MARKET
Calling on his wealth of experience Curiel notes that there are currently three main trends taking hold of the jewellery auction market. “First of all contemporary jewellery meaning jewellery made in the 21st Century. This is extremely popular today with new designers such as Jar, Baghat, Chin, and Carnet all currently being courted by private buyers. It is the way that the auction business is going in general with the 20th and 21st Centuries now the name of the game, the 16th, 17th, 18th are doing OK, but these are in great demand.”
The second trend he explains are coloured diamonds, like the Pink Legacy and the Perfect Pink. Curiel says these are currently bringing in “£2-3m per carat” whereas a white diamond is “only worth £100,000 per carat”. “Once you are a collector who has a 10-carat white or colourless diamond and a 15-carat pear-shaped diamond, you eventually want something else, and what else is there in terms of diamonds? The answer is coloured.”
The third and final trend is period jewellery, untouched and unaltered from the ‘20s and ‘30s is currently found to be in “great demand”. “If we want to have a successful sale today we have to have a combination of all three of these things,” confirms Curiel.
When posed a similar question on trends hitting the jewellery auction market, Barber alludes to the continuously increasing figures these types of jewellery are bringing in. “Prices for certain categories of gems and jewellery have risen exponentially in the last 10 years and according to the Knight Frank Luxury Index, jewellery now outperforms the UK housing market. Top quality gems from extinct antique mines are increasing in value because only a finite number of these examples exist.”
This article first appeared in the November 2018 issue of Jewelley Focus