In 2016, Bonhams sold more gemstones and pieces of jewellery than any other auction house in the UK. When it comes to jewellery and auctions, It is the unequivocal UK market leader and has been for six out of the last eight years.
Here, Jean Ghika, Director of Jewellery for the UK and Europe, gives her predictions for what she anticipates will capture people's interest in 2017 along with an update on jewellery buying habits:
In 2016, jewellery buyers put serious money into the very best coloured gems. Emeralds, rubies and sapphires all soared at Bonhams Fine Jewellery auctions in London and also in New York and Hong Kong. In 2016 in particular, the finest unheated exceptional blue sapphires from Kashmir made big prices on the auction block. The sheer rarity and exceptional quality of these stones from the now largely extinct mines located high in the Himalayan mountain range in north west India makes them highly sought after.
Bonhams sold a striking Kashmir cabochon sapphire, weighing 7.13 carats, in its April sale for £506,500 against its pre-sale estimate of £50,000-£70,000. This is the equivalent of $102,300 price per carat.
An unmounted 14.13 carat cushion-shaped sapphire from Kashmir was also sold on 4th December in London for £1,395,000 ($121,000 per carat).
The appeal of buying a jewel with a great story behind it, ie owning a piece of jewellery that has its own rich and colourful history, should not be underestimated and continues to attracts buyers and collectors from around the world. Whether it is owning something once worn by a great fashion icon, by royalty or by a famous person/celebrity, or having a piece in a collection that is completely historic, having endured centuries of turmoil/displacement to survive intact, it is increasingly appealing to UK and international collectors.
A portrait diamond brooch depicting an image on ivory of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. This is a rare surviving example of a genre that was popular amongst English Royalty and the aristocracy during the 18th and 19th centuries. Miniature portraits, mostly executed on ivory were overlaid with a flat and transparent 'portrait diamond' rather than a piece of crystal or glass. This very personal token depicting a portrait of the Duchess, was rendered in blue enamel to the reverse and with the initial 'G' in seed pearls with a ducal coronet above. This sold on 20th April for £32,500 against an estimate of £6,000-8,000.
Prices for fancy coloured diamonds, especially blue diamonds, continue to climb to dizzy heights. According to the GIA, fancy coloured diamonds make up 0.01% of polished diamonds produced annually. As a result of their incredible rarity and scarcity, they continue to fetch record sums.
The star of Bonhams London's September sale was a very rare oval-cut blue diamond. Weighing 3.81 carats, the Fancy Intense Blue diamond hailed from a private British collection and sold for £2,322,500 ($792,450 per carat) against its pre-sale estimate of £1,300,000-1,800,000.
Jewellery is increasingly being considered an art form in its own right; it is no longer perceived just as a means of luxurious adornment. Modern and contemporary jewellery designers appeal to collectors who wish to build a collection of jewellery as they might build a collection of contemporary art. Modern jewels of strong and bold design, are often handmade, have a value over and above the intrinsic worth of the component parts. These pieces are often one-offs or produced in very small numbers and their exclusivity increases their desirability.
A pair of moonstone and coloured diamond pendent earrings by Hemmerle sold at Bonhams Fine Jewellery sale on 20th September for £15,000.
An iron and gold overlay damascene cuff bracelet by Angela Cummings for Tiffany, circa 1984, sold at Bonhams Fine Jewellery sale in New York on 6th December for £6,900.
Signed jewellery and period pieces grow in appreciation and demand
To find an original, intact, surviving jewel from a particular period in history, with the added bonus that it was made by a master jeweller, makes it an incredibly rare and valuable work of art. Its value is not just in the gems but also in the fine workmanship and innovative design. As a result, Bonhams is expecting demand to further increase in 2017 and will be launching a campaign in the New Year to raise awareness of key makers and eras.
A rare Art Deco emerald and diamond bracelet by Cartier sold in December 2016 for £257,000 against a pre-sale estimate of £80,000-100,000.
The 1960s and 1970s are decades which saw the emergence of jewellery 'to wear' rather than jewellery 'to put away'. Unlike the more restrained jewellery of the 1950s the likes of Andrew Grima, John Donald and Stewart Devlin created jewels where the value lay in their aesthetic composition rather than the carat weight of expensive diamonds and gemstones used. Perhaps it is this 'anti-bling' stance that continues to appeal to the growing band of 21st century collectors.
The current competition amongst collectors to acquire works by these artists is intense and 1960s and 1970s jewellery design is now firmly established as a recognised collecting area and one that Bonhams anticipates will grow further in 2017.
A rare piece from the 1970s by Andrew Grima, the doyen of modern jewellery design in Britain, was sold at Bonhams September sale this year. The gold gem-set and diamond bracelet, dated 1973, features carved emeralds and cabochon sapphires of various sizes, mounted in 18 carat gold, interspersed with brilliant-cut diamond accents, sold for £23,750 against its pre-sale estimate of £12,000-18,000.
The sale of a ruby, diamond and gold choker by Andrew Grima, circa 1986-7 on 4th December in London, demonstrates the desire by collectors to acquire classic Grima pieces. With multiple telephone and online bidders battling it out the final selling price was £21,250 against a pre-sale estimate of £6,000-8000.
Women are doing it for themselves
Bonhams is reporting that more and more women are buying jewellery for themselves self-gifting for the fun of it, for investment purposes or as a way to spend their hard-earned bonuses. In fact, according to Bonhams, female buyers accounted for 28% of all jewellery bought at auction in 2016 compared to 24% in 2011. Plus, their average spend at a Bonhams jewellery auction has more than doubled compared to 2011.
Online bidding continues to increase at a pace
In 2016, one in four jewellery lots were purchased online at Bonhams (24%) compared to one in seven (15%) in 2013. As a result of a combination of advancements in technology along with the fact that we have multiple pulls on our time, online bidding at jewellery auctions has increased year on year, with more and more people opting to click and bid in the comfort of their own home or office.
Buyers in the Far East driving the market
Given the global appetite of jewellery, Bonhams has sold jewellery to successful bidders in all four corners of the world this year. It is well documented that buyers from the Far East are very active in the jewellery sector and they are driving demand for exceptional gemstones and fine jewellery. For example, in the last three years, Bonhams has recorded a 25% increase in buyers from the Far East and an 11% increase in buyers from the US.
Bonhams has more dedicated jewellery auctions annually than any other international auction house in the world. The next Bonhams Jewellery sale will take place at Bonhams Knightsbridge on 24 January 2017, 15 March 2017, followed by Fine Jewellery sales in London, New York and Hong Kong in April 2017.