Auction House Bonhams Launches ‘What’s In Your Jewelry Box?’ Campaign

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Meteoric price rises for top-quality antique jewelry and gemstones mean tens of thousands of Americans may be sitting on valuable family heirlooms without knowing their true value, according to one of the world's leading auction houses.

On the back of increases of more than 1,000 percent for some rare gemstones, Bonhams is launching a campaign to help owners understand the worth of their jewelry and guide them on achieving the best prices if they decide to sell.

Colored diamonds, sapphires, rubies and emeralds, as well as fine pieces of jewelry from key eras like the 1920s and 1930s, have enjoyed unbroken price rises over the past decade, according to Bonhams.

Analyzing lots sold at auction, Bonhams is reporting excellent prices now being achieved at auction versus a decade ago.  These include a 970 percent price increase for sapphires; a 1,100 percent increase for rubies and a 1,900 percent price increase for emeralds.

Prices for Art Deco (1920s and 1930s) and Belle Époque (1890 to 1915) jewelry have soared by a remarkable 72 percent since 2007.


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Antique jewelry has risen by 54 percent and jewelry from the post war era (1945-1975) has risen by 89 percent during the same period according to new data released by Art Market Research this week.

Such rises mean many owners may be sitting on jewelry they rarely wear or may have inherited that is worth far more than they realise.

Jean Ghika, Global Director of Bonhams Jewelry, said: "Investors are rapidly recognizing the opportunities of collecting jewelry and, in the process, driving up prices of an already limited commodity."

As a result, Bonhams is launching a campaign in the US this month – What's in Your Jewelry Box? – to help people establish if they have a piece of value sitting in a safety deposit box or jewelry box. Bonhams has set up a dedicated webpage where it is possible to communicate directly with a jewelry specialist at www.bonhams.com/jewels.

Jewelry owners can also click on this link and have the option to upload a picture of their jewelry from their mobile phone, tablet or computer to help Bonhams experts ahead of a valuation meeting.  

Bonhams is also offering free up-to-date market valuations during February and March (click here for details to find your local jewelry specialist and to book an appointment https://www.bonhams.com/locations/region/AMERICAS/).

To mark the launch of 'What's in Your Jewelry Box?', Bonhams has created a 'Top 10 List of Hot Jewels'that are especially in demand.

The 'hot list' reflects items that perform particularly well during the sales the auction households throughout the year. 

Top 10 List of Hot Jewels

Colored diamonds

Rubies

Colorless diamonds/white diamonds

Sapphires

Emeralds

Belle Epoque/Art Deco Jewelry

Designer Jewelry e.g. from Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Boivin, Tiffany

Natural pearls

Artist Jewelry e.g. Grima, Lalaounis, Chanel, Belperron

Spinels

Source: Bonhams

Jean Ghika added: "The greatest price gains are being seen with fancy colored diamonds, exceptional colorless diamonds, Burmese rubies, Colombian emeralds, Kashmir and Ceylon sapphires, natural pearls, as well as pieces of jewelry from key eras such as the Art Deco period and certain contemporary designers."

According to newly released data from the Knight Frank Luxury Investment Index, which tracks the price growth of 10 luxury investment sectors over the past 12 months, jewelry is a consistently strong performer.

The research shows that jewelry as an alternative asset class increased by 138 percent in the last 10 years.

Bonhams has cited a number of examples of lots it has sold in its Top 10 Hot Jewels to illustrate how well jewelry and gemstones are currently performing, backed up by the latest research:

1. Colored diamonds

According to The Robb Report, just 10 years ago, a buyer could have bought a vivid blue diamond for $200,000 to $300,000 per carat; today that same stone is fetching $2 million to $3 million per carat.   This tenfold increase in value surpasses the growth rate of the FTSE 100, the S&P 500 Index and the housing market /real estate market. 

A one carat vivid blue diamond, for example, can command roughly ten times more than a light-blue stone of the same size, according to the Fancy Color Research Foundation, whose recent figures show that between 2006 and 2014, blue, pink, and yellow diamonds experienced an average appreciation of 154.7 percent.

Jean Ghika says: "50 years ago a colored diamond was considered a curiosity, and most collectors focused on the whitest stones.  Now, the market is more informed and the beauty and rarity of these stones is fully appreciated.  Pink and blue fancy colored diamonds in all sizes and saturations are increasingly sought after by buyers around the world today."

Prices are set to continue to rise according to data released from The Fancy Color Research Foundation (FCFR) with the average price of all fancy blue colored diamonds rising by 8.1 percent in the last two years.

Bonhams recently consigned a Fancy Intense Blue diamond, weighing 4.03 carats, which had been held in a private collection for nearly 30 years.  This sold for £2,685,000 ($3,779,578 and equivalent to $853,203 price per carat) against its pre-sale estimate of £1,200,000 - £1,500,000 in London last September.

2. Rubies

In the jewelry world, rubies are on fire. Traditionally they have always been one of the 'big four' in fine jewels, alongside emeralds and sapphires, but now they have become the main attraction, and capturing huge interest around the world according to Bonhams.  The auction house's records show that an Art Deco ring by Lacloche, containing an unheated 5.00 carats Burmese ruby, sold for £30,000 ($58,500) in 2007. A comparable ruby in a ring by Cartier fetched £362,500 ($510,378) more recently.  This represents an increase of 1,108 percent over a seven year period.

Jean Ghika comments: "In the last few years, we have seen rubies fetch prices at auction that exceed the price per carat of diamonds. This reflects a greater understanding and appreciation for specimen rubies."

3. Colorless diamonds/white diamonds

Diamonds are never out of fashion and remain the universal symbol of love and romance.  Easy to wear, elegant and effortlessly stylish, diamonds remain popular. 

Jean Ghika comments: "Diamonds, in their various shapes and sizes are by far the most popular stone we sell at Bonhams.  At the moment, we are seeing a growing appetite for old cut diamonds, these were popular during the Victorian, Edwardian and Art Deco periods and were hand cut.  They have immense charm and have an individuality some view as lacking in modern diamonds. These have been the most sought-after diamonds over the last few years."

4. Sapphires

There has been a resurgence of interest in colored stones and Bonhams is reporting a growing trend for people choosing colored 'statement stones' like sapphires.  Traditionally thought of as blue, sapphires come in a wide variety of colors - including pink, yellow and padparadscha (a rare pinkish orange color) – and these hold a great appeal for serious jewelry collectors and investors.  That means the stones are not only holding but also increasing their value, making them an appealing buy in an otherwise increasingly volatile financial market.

Antique sapphires from historic mines are particularly sought after due to their rarity.  Today Kashmir sapphires are among the rarest of all gemstones and collectors are prepared to pay princely sums for top-quality specimens.

Bonhams has seen many sapphires dramatically exceeding pre-sale estimates at auction.  In 2004 a 6.26 carats Kashmir sapphire sold at Bonhams New York for $49,422. In 2016, Bonhams sold a similar sized stone weighing 6.90 carats for $931,500.

Jean Ghika says: "With prices so buoyant, now is a really good time to sell sapphires and other colored stones. We encourage people to contact us to discuss any pieces they no longer wear for a free valuation with a view to sale. They will get our expert advice on how to achieve the best price and may be surprised at the current value of their sapphires given demand for the best quality stones is very high."

5. Emeralds

Like many stones, the per carat price of fine quality emerald escalates rapidly with size. Value also hinges largely on color of the stone and clarity. Top quality, untreated stones (with certification) hailing from Colombia are in demand and have sold well at Bonhams auctions in the last year and have markedly increased in value in the last 10 years.  For example, in 2004, Bonhams Los Angeles sold an 8.30 carats Colombian emerald ring for $47,000. Fast forward 10 years and Bonhams London sold a similar emerald, weighing 10.49 carats, for £362,500 ($612,000).  In the same year, a 10.09 carats emerald sold in Hong Kong for HK$7,240,000 ($926,029), representing an increase of 1,900 percent.

6. Belle Epoque/Art Deco Jewelry

Jewels from particular eras are also catching the eyes of buyers around the world.  New data by Art Market Research shows strong performance of jewelry over the last decade.  In the last decade, antique jewelry is up by 54 percent; jewelry from the 1945-1975 period is up by 88.9 percent and Art Deco (1920s and 1930s) and Belle Epoque jewelry (1890 to 1915) up by 71.8 percent. 

7. Designer/signed Jewelry

Designer/signed jewelry has achieved remarkable prices over the past few years at auction, with buyers from around the world seeking out the best examples of pieces of jewelry made by the great Houses including Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Bulgari, Verdura, Boivin and Tiffany.

One fascinating example Bonhams cites is when it sold a Van Cleef & Arpels ballerina brooch for $68,500 in New York in December 2012.  In June 2014, it sold a similar brooch for $221,000, representing a 223 percent increase in less than two years.  Another example is an Art Deco coral brooch by Cartier sold at Bonhams London in September 2009 for £45,600  ($64,189).  A comparable Art Deco coral brooch, also by Cartier sold in 2014 in New York for US$ 317,000.

8. Natural Pearls

Natural pearls have seen a surge in value over the last decade, and grey natural pearls, are rarer and more valuable than white pearls.  Data from Art Market Research report a 286.1 percent increase in natural pearls over the last decade and two out of Bonhams top 10 lots sold at auction in 2017 were natural pearls. 

Jean Ghika comments: "Bonhams New York recently sold a natural pearl and diamond drop pendant which had a pre-sale  estimate of $30-50,000. The piece finally sold for $1,454,500, which illustrates the demand for natural pearls in today's market."

9. Artist Jewelry

Another area that is performing well is Artist Jewelry.  These tend to be one-of-a-kind pieces, miniature pieces of artwork, and are being collected the way people collect contemporary art or sculpture.  Jewelry by Suzanne Belperron, Coco Chanel, Hemmerle, Georges Braque, Daniel Brush and Andrew Grima are all in demand.

10. Spinels

Many of the world's most famous "rubies" are, in fact, spinels. The magnificent red gemstones that are the showpieces of several European state crowns are actually spinels. 

According to Bonhams, there is a noticeable interest in spinels with many collectors recognizing their valueand wanting to buy the best examples.  It recently sold a 5.30 carats Burmese red spinel in its London Fine Jewelry sale in April for £65,000 versus its pre-sale estimate of £15,000-20,000. There was equal interest in a 9.15 carats Sri Lankan blue spinel in its November sale in Hong Kong which sold for HK$625,000 ($79,940) against a pre-sale estimate of HK$200,000-300,000 ($25-$35,000).


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Jean Ghika adds: "We are opening up our doors virtually through our 'What's in Your Jewelry Box' website and will also be conducting a series of valuations across the States in the next two months.  We would love to see what gems and pieces of jewelry people have tucked away in their jewelry boxes and in safe deposit boxes.  Now is a great time to get an up-to-date valuation and it could be a valuable start to 2018 for those who don't realise the value of the pieces they own."

Please log on to www.bonhams.com/jewels for more information. For those who want to consign, Bonhams will be hosting dedicated Fine Jewelry sales at Bonhams in London, New York, Hong Kong during February, March and April. 

Follow Bonhams Fine Jewelry on Instagram on @BonhamsJewels.

Content, Images Courtesy of Bonham's Auction House, Artistic Direction, Janet Walker

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