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Sotheby's Worldwide Auction Sales Totalled over $4.7 Billion over the Decade
Embraced by an Ever-expanding Globalized Audience, & Propelled by the Digital Revolution
By: Diamond World News Service
Dec 17 2019 11:17AM
Reference: 24654  


As 2019 draws to a close and on the eve of 2020, Sotheby’s international Jewellery division is marking ten years of record-breaking results, and celebrating a decade which has redrawn the boundaries of the auction market for diamonds and jewels. Embraced by an ever-expanding globalized audience and propelled by the digital revolution, showstopping treasures have achieved unprecedented prices: the ten most valuable jewels ever sold at Sotheby’s all came under the hammer in the last ten years. These pieces were offered across our sales locations of Geneva, New York and Hong Kong, and have found new homes in collections around the world.

Total sales exceeding US$ 4.7 Billion 40,353 lots sold in 10 years 683 lots sold above $1m (41 above $10m) Over 100 countries from across the globe participated in our sales Auction record for a diamond and any jewel sold at auction: $71.2m set by the CTF Pink Star in 2017

Digital Revolution: Online activity in our Jewellery sales has grown exponentially over the last 10 years.
• This year, 60% of the participants and 50% of the buyers placed bids online, respectively up 74% and 88% from 2010
• The proportion of lots sold online has seen a growth of 900% in terms of numbers (137% in value)
• The most valuable jewel ever purchased online is a pair of diamond earrings sold for $6m in our Geneva sale in May 2016

A Market with Great Potential which continues to attract new participants at a fast pace:
• A third of the participants this year were new to Sotheby’s: 35% more than in 2010

Female Collectors on the rise The proportion of women taking part in our sales has increased by 20% since 2010, with a growing contingent of female collectors under 40.

Educational Initiatives attracting a younger and more diverse audience
World-class expertise shared through masterclasses, lectures and exhibitions around the world
Social Media: Jewellery is one of the categories that attracts the strongest following. Over the last two years, 25% of the best performing posts on @sothebys Instagram (1.1m followers) were pictures or videos of jewels and diamonds, with an average of almost 300,000 people reached.
• Launched in 2018, @SothebysJewelssaw its follower count increase almost three-fold this year to achieve over 160,000 followers.
Understanding Jewellery – the ‘jewellery Bible’ co-written by Sotheby’s experts David Bennett and Daniela Mascetti has now been turned into a dynamic and interactive app, exploring the history, style and craft of Jewellery.

Record for any jewel broken by three diamonds

The decade was dominated by exceptional pink and blue diamonds which repeatedly broke the record for any jewel sold at auction. In 2017, THE CTF PINK STAR - at 59.60 carats, the largest Fancy Vivid Pink diamond with Internally Flawless clarity ever graded - became the most valuable diamond or gemstone ever sold at auction when it sold for $71.2m in Hong Kong. The record still stands.

The record had previously been beaten twice in Geneva. In 2010, THE GRAFF PINK – a 24.78-carat Fancy Intense Pink diamond, Type IIa – fetched $46.2m.

In 2015, THE BLUE MOON OF JOSEPHINE  achieved $48.5m. The 12.03-carat Internally Flawless Fancy Vivid Blue diamond also set the highest price-per-carat ever for a diamond or gemstone at $4,028,941 per carat – a record that remains unbroken.

Records for White Diamonds

Only 10 white diamonds over 100 carats have ever been sold at auction – six of them at Sotheby’s - and five of them sold within the last ten years alone. In 2013, at Sotheby’s Hong Kong, a 118.28-carat diamond with coveted ‘D Colour’ and Flawless clarity (set an auction record at the time of $30.1m.

In April 2018, a technically perfect 102.34-carat D Flawless Round Brilliant diamond, the largest ever graded by the Gemological Institute of America was sold privately by Sotheby’s Diamonds, the company’s retail boutique specialising in the world’s finest diamonds.

Record for a Ruby

Outside the rarefied world of top-quality diamonds, the past decade has also seen impressive results for the finest precious gemstones at auction. The most valuable among these to have sold at Sotheby’s to date is the Sunrise Ruby, a Burmese ruby of ‘Pigeon’s Blood’ colour weighing 25.59 carats which more than tripled the previous record, selling for $30.3m. The gemstone still retains the world record at auction for any ruby.


Provenance and quality combine to set prices soaring This has been a landmark decade for Noble and Royal Jewels – a market that Sotheby’s pioneered and developed. Since the introduction of these dedicated auctions in Geneva in 2007, Sotheby’s have sold some of the most important “Noble Jewels” ever to come on the market and sales have totalled more than $366 million, with 1527 lots offered. 90% of the jewels sold, 72% of them above the high estimate.

The decade started with the return on the market of pieces from a collection that changed the face of jewellery auctions forever when they were first sold in 1987: The jewels of the Duchess of Windsor. 23 years after the original auction in Geneva, 20 exceptional jewels and precious objects were offered in London, led by the Duchess’s emblematic 1952 Cartier “Panther” bracelet, which set a record at the time for a bracelet and for a jewel by Cartier at $7m.

Record for a collection of Royal Jewels: Treasures from the Bourbon-Parma Family

In 2018, Royal Jewels from the Bourbon Parma Family made history in Geneva. 100% of the lots sold, totalling $53.1 million and thereby beating the longstanding record for a collection of royal jewels set 31 years before by the Windsor sale.

Queen Marie-Antoinette’s Record-breaking Natural Pearl

The star of the Bourbon-Parma auction was Queen Marie-Antoinette’s pearl and diamond pendant, supporting a natural pearl of exceptional size, which soared past its $1-2 million estimate to sell for $36.2m – setting today’s record for an antique jewel and for a natural pearl. Record for a Tiara Described in May 2011 as ‘perhaps the grandest piece of jewellery to come to sale in over 30 years’, the ‘Donnersmarck Tiara’ – formerly in the collection of Princess Katharina Henckel von Donnersmarck - set a new world auction record for a tiara when it sold at Sotheby’s Geneva for $12.7m. The record still stands.

Royal Diamonds

Two of the most important royal diamonds to ever come to auction were sold in Geneva: The Farnese Blue, a 6.16-carat pear shaped blue diamond, which had been given to Elisabeth Farnese, Queen of Spain, for her wedding in 1715, sold for $6.7m in 2018.

Worn by Marie de Medici in 1610 at her coronation as Queen Consort of Henri IV, The Beau Sancy realised $9.7m in 2012. Before being auctioned by the Royal House of Prussia, the 34.98-carats modified pear double rose cut diamond had been the privileged witness of 400 years of European history and had passed down through the Royal Families of France, England, Prussia, and the House of Orange.


Featuring Hollywood stars and fashion icons alongside leading lights of Jewellery design, the past ten years have also seen illustrious private collections take centre stage at Sotheby’s.

The decade saw the sale of glamourous jewels from the star of the silver screen, Gina Lollobrigida, Barbara Sinatra, Estee and Evelyn Lauder, to name a few. In 2014, the collection of Bunny Mellon starred in New York, led by a 9.75-carat Fancy Vivid Blue diamond (left) which realised $32.6m. More than doubling its pre-sale estimate, it became, at the time, the most valuable blue diamond ever sold at auction and was renamed the Zoe Diamond.

Landmark prices for Art Deco Jewels

As we prepare to celebrate the centenary of what is arguably the most influential design movement of the 20th century, we can look back on a decade of landmark prices for Art Deco jewels.

In April 2014, the Hutton-Mdivani necklace – a jadeite, ruby and diamond necklace by Cartier which was once owned by Woolworth heiress Barbara Hutton – sold for $27.4m at Sotheby’s Hong Kong. The necklace set a world record at the time for a jewel by Cartier and was purchased by the Cartier Collection, dedicated to ‘historic and exceptional pieces from the Maison Cartier’. It remains the most valuable jadeite jewel ever sold at auction.

This May, The ‘Beaumont Necklace’, composed of a row of 11 immaculate Colombian cabochon emeralds, weighing a total of over 75 carats, sold for $3.6m in Geneva - more than double the price it first achieved at auction in 1994. I

n November, an Art Deco bracelet made by Cartier in 1927, featuring a central 47.07-carat sapphire and coming from an important Asian American collection, stole the show in Geneva, achieving $6.1m.

The Personal Collections of Legendary Modern Jewellers

From arguably the most important female jewellery designer of the 20th century, Suzanne Belperron in 2012, to award-winning contemporary British designer Sean Leane in 2017, Sotheby’s has also showcased the personal collection of modern-day visionaries in this field. Shaun Leane’s Coiled Corset designed for Alexander McQueen in 1999-2000 sold for $807,000 in New York (picture p. 1). Suzanne Belperron’s rock crystal and diamond brooch soared to $325,000.

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