Bonhams sets new world record with exquisite Sri Lankan sapphire ring from jeweller to Elizabeth Taylor and Grace Kelly

Eight Exceptional Jewels from a Private Collection
23 Nov 2012
Hong Kong, Admiralty

Sapphire makes US$36,000 per carat in exceptional day of jewellery sales in Hong Kong

An exquisite sapphire and diamond ring by Van Cleef & Arpels featuring a rectangular-cut sapphire weighing 43.16 carats set a new world record, selling for US$1,560,000 (HK$12,084,000; £979,000) on 23rd November at the sale of 'Eight Exceptional Jewels from a Private Collection' at Bonhams in Hong Kong.

Bidders competed fiercely for the striking ring, which at US$36,000 per carat, went well over its pre-sale estimate of US$550,000 – 650,000 (HK$4,260,000 – 5,050,000; £350,000 - 420,000) and broke the previous record for a Sri Lankan sapphire, which was US$26,000 per carat. The total for the sale also far exceeded the pre-sale estimate realising US$4,369,000 (HK$33,856,500; £2,736,000). The total realised across the two Hong Kong jewellery sales held on 23rd November was US$7,555,116 (HK$58,553, 250; £4,715, 900).

In 1969, Jacques Arpels travelled to Ceylon (Sri Lanka) in person to acquire the exceptional 43.16 carat sapphire. The perfectly crystalline, flawless stone was subsequently mounted in a ring and flanked by two pear-shaped diamonds. This ring demonstrates the jeweller's expertise in sourcing stones of extraordinary depth and quality.

Van Cleef & Arpels has long been known as one of the most innovative and well established jewellers in the world. Members of the Royal family such as the Prince of Wales and A-list celebrities including Elizabeth Taylor and Grace Kelly bought some of their finest pieces from the renowned jeweller. It was here that the Prince of Wales bought Wallis Simpson the sapphire-and-diamond clip and bracelet, which she wore to set off her blue satin Mainbocher wedding gown. Prince Rainier ordered the pearl-and-diamond necklace with matching bracelet and earrings on his engagement to Grace Kelly and John F. Kennedy found the emerald-and-diamond ring he slipped on the third finger of Jacqueline Bouvier's left hand.

Another of the key highlights in the 'Eight Exceptional Jewels' sale included an important diamond necklace/choker/ bracelet with22 precisely matched emeralds weighing 47 carats and 412 diamonds with a total weight of more than 70 carats. Between 1959 and 1961 Van-Cleef and Arpels went in search of the superlative gems to make this sumptuous collar necklace, which sold for US$1,241,000 (HK$9,620,000; £780,000).

A magnificent ruby and diamond strap bracelet, which is recorded in Van Cleef & Arpels' archive as being made in 1936 was another of the top lots, selling for US$467,000 (HK$3,620,000; £293,000). It was once in the collection of glamorous philanthropist and leader of pre-WW2 French Riviera society, Madame Hélène Beaumont. Set with 107 carats of fine-quality rubies, the bracelet is remarkable for its outstanding supple and ribbon-like craftsmanship.

The Fine Jewellery & Jadeite sale on the same day also realised strong prices for the top pieces, with the highest-value lot far exceeding expectations. The magnificent diamond single-stone ring featuring an unusual 'Fancy Light Pink' pear-shaped diamond sold for US$1,270,000 (HK$9,844,000; £795,000) against a pre-sale estimate of US$787,000 – 942,000 (HK$6,100,000 – 7,300,000; £493,000 – 590,000).

Graeme Thompson, Bonhams recently recruited Head of Jewellery in Asia, said: "We offered exceptional jewels and they have made exceptional prices. We produced a fabulous single-owner catalogue for the collection of 'Eight Exceptional Jewels' and have marketed the sale around the globe. I am delighted for our vendor that we have proved we can get world-record breaking prices."

Matthew Girling, Bonhams Group Jewellery director comments: "Our new team in Hong Kong led by Graeme Thompson is already proving itself with this significant sale. However this was a worldwide team effort. We drew on consignments for the sale from across the globe. It is a testimony to that team effort that we have produced such remarkable results."

The top five jewellery results across the two combined jewellery sales held in Hong Kong on 23rd November are as follows:

- Lot 8 (Eight Exceptional Jewels): An exceptional sapphire and diamond ring, by Van Cleef & Arpels: US$1,560,000 (HK$12,084,000; £979,000)

- Lot 1056 (Fine Jewellery & Jadeite): A magnificent 'Fancy Light Pink' diamond single-stone ring: US$1,270,000 (HK$9,844,000; £795,000)

- Lot 7 (Eight Exceptional Jewels): An important emerald and diamond necklace/choker/bracelet combination by Van Cleef & Arpels: US$1,241,000 (HK$9,620,000; £780,000)

- Lot 6 (Eight Exceptional Jewels): A magnificent ruby and diamond strap bracelet, by Van Cleef & Arpels: US$467,000 (HK$3,620,000; £293,000)

- Lot 3 (Eight Exceptional Jewels): A fine emerald ring: US$390,000 (HK$3,020,000; £244,000)

Values stated include buyer's premium.


Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world's largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques. The present company was formed by the merger in November 2001 of Bonhams & Brooks and Phillips Son & Neale. In August 2002, the company acquired Butterfields, the principal firm of auctioneers on the West Coast of America. Today, Bonhams offers more sales than any of its rivals, through two major salerooms in London: New Bond Street and Knightsbridge; and a further three in the UK regions and Scotland. Sales are also held in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Carmel, New York and Connecticut in the USA; and Germany, France, Monaco, Hong Kong and Australia. Bonhams has a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 25 countries offering sales advice and valuation services in 60 specialist areas. For a full listing of upcoming sales, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments go to

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