Sotheby’s has made a huge splash in time for its April auctions by offering two incredibly valuable and rare blue diamonds at auction, one at its NY auction house and one at its Hong Kong auction house. Christie’s has attempted to stir up the same attention, but with a rare ruby ring that they will offer on April 20th in New York. Of course, Christie’s will be offering numerous fancy color diamond jewelry pieces as well, but they have chosen a 15.99 carat ruby named the ‘Jubilee Ruby’ to headline its auction proceedings, as gemstones have also proven in recent years that they can attain incredible prices at auction as well. Let’s take a look at the highlights of the auction, how Christie’s has valued them, and the stories behind these pieces!
Fancy Intense Yellow
To kick off the morning session, Christie’s Lot #47 is a 39.12 carat Fancy Intense Yellow diamond ring with Internally Flawless clarity. It is valued at between $800k to $1.2 million, or $20.5k to $30.7k per carat. This is a rather modest valuation by Christie’s considering the extremely high clarity grade and relatively high color grade, which gives me cause for speculation. Not having seen the diamond, I would imagine 2 reasons why they may have chosen this route: Either the color is weak, even though it is certified as an Intense Yellow, or the auction house is valuing it at a price where a true sale price would seem a phenomenal price compared to valuation. They would have reason to do this if as we suspect, Christie’s is trying to keep up with Sotheby’s this season and is looking to break a record to get into the media. For those uninitiated – during some auction seasons, Sotheby’s carries the headlining jewels, and during others, that honor goes to Christie’s. They are neck and neck in competition to stay innovative and relevant, and to keep this market alive.
The 39.12 carat Fancy Intense Yellow IF diamond ring
Following the ring is Lot #48, a pair of Fancy Intense Yellow earrings, one center diamond weighing 16.48 carats and the other 16.04 carats. Both were cut into a modified cushion shape, and having an IF and VS2 clarities respectively. The estimated value for the yellow diamond earrings is between $650k and $750k, or $20k to $23k per carat as a pair. The information about the diamonds, as it always is when diamonds are up for auction, is from the GIA certificate issued when the auction house sent them in that graded the diamonds. The GIA certificates are dated December 24, 2015 and January 6th, 2016, meaning that Christie’s will have had possession for approximately 4 months prior to the scheduled auction.
The interesting part here is that auction houses used to have the tendency of disclosing their upcoming auctions much earlier than they do nowadays. Historically, the auction houses used to take possession of items to be auctioned up to 6 months prior to the auction date. They used this time for various reasons such as photography, historical research, evaluation, promotion, and for displaying the jewels at various locations globally for potential buyers to view. I have noticed that recently, they started publishing their offerings no more than 30 days prior to the actual auction date. That is quite a significantly shorter amount of time!
Although it is a shocking difference and seems to imply many things, I suspect that it is simple because both Christie’s and Sotheby’s are facing true challenges finding rare and unique items worthy of auctions, and working very hard with various parties to find such items. The fact that it is so challenging for them to find auction worthy diamonds and jewelry further supports my claim that prices for these unique and rare jewels are rising due to extreme rarity and high demand for perfect items. The market for fancy color diamonds is getting tougher as the demand for them is rising and the supply is not.
16.48 carat and 16.04 carat Fancy Intense Yellow diamond earrings
Fancy Vivid Yellow
The evening auction session will feature another rarity, Lot #168. It is also a pair of earrings, but this time they are round which makes them very rare. Fancy color diamonds are hardly ever cut into a round shape because it is the shape that is least likely to entrap the color. This is the same reason why colorless diamonds are most frequently cut into a round shape. When fancy color diamonds are round, it means that the color in the diamonds is so extraordinary that the shape does not detract from the color whatsoever!
Each of the two center diamonds on the earrings weighs 3.01 carats, and they were graded by the GIA as being the highly coveted Fancy Vivid Yellow color intensity. One diamond has VS1 clarity and the other has VS2 clarity. They are valued as a pair between $550k and $650k, or $91k to $108k per carat. In this case, this is a relatively generous valuation. Without having seen the stones in person, the only reason I would speculate that the value is that high would be due to the depth of the color. They must be a strong vivid, a 10 on the 1-10 scale. Only this depth of color would justify commanding such a price.
3.01 carat and 3.01 carat Fancy Vivid Yellow diamond earrings
Following the earrings comes Lot #169; a 30.48 carat Fancy Vivid Yellow, rectangular shaped diamond with a VS2 clarity. The GIA certificate is dated January 6, 2016, making it either a freshly cut diamond, or possibly a re-cut diamond. If this is so, it may have been an SI1 clarity or lower and was upgraded in order to be more appealing to potential buyers. Sometimes the loss in weight is minimal and justified in order to sell the diamond more easily, or even potentially increase its value. It is valued at $1 million to $1.4 million, or $32k to $46k per carat, a modest price for the usually high value Fancy Vivid Yellow color. Most likely, the color is weak enough to be a borderline Fancy Intense Yellow, the color grade under Fancy Vivid Yellow. It is also possible that the auction house is hoping for a major sale price compared to their estimates. We shall see in just a few short weeks!
30.48 carat Fancy Vivid Yellow VS2 rectangular shaped diamond ring
Only 2 pink diamonds are being offered at the auction. The first is Lot #197, a 5.01 carat Fancy Light Purplish Pink diamond with IF clarity. The diamond a relatively low color pink diamond, but what makes it exceptional is its Internally Flawless clarity, which makes it hard to find, and the fact that its weight is above 5 carats. The GIA certificate is also dated January 13, 2016, making it a relatively new or re-cut stone as I speculated above. The value is set at $450k to $550k, or approximately $90k to $110k per carat.
5.01 carat Fancy Light Purplish Pink IF diamond ring
The second pink diamond, which also happens to be the second top Lot of the evening, is a rare 10.07 carat Fancy Intense Purple-Pink diamond with VS1 clarity. There is an accompanied diagram indicating that the clarity may be improved. This is important because it is not necessarily an option for just any diamond, and the potential adds to the diamond’s appeal. It is valued at $8million to $12 million, or approximately $800k to $1.2 million per carat. It is worth noting that it is also rare to find such a balanced color of purple-pink in a diamond, which also adds to the value and appeal. This will be the sixth ever diamond in the Fancy Intense Pink category that weighs above 10 carats that sells at auction (even though it is a purple-pink color, it is included in the pink category). The record holder for a pink diamond is the famous Graff Pink, a 24.78 carat Fancy Intense Pink acquired by Lawrence Graff back on November 16, 2010 for $46.16 million and later recut to a 23.88 carat Fancy Vivid Pink.
The Graff Pink, a 24.78 carat Fancy Intense Pink diamond ring
If the diamond is repolished as per the suggestion, it is most likely that the diamond will fall under 10 carats, a very important bracket. If the new owner wants to proceed with a re-cut, they have to seriously and intensively review if it is worth the risk. If the re-polishing will yield a substantial increase in clarity to a VVS1 or higher, and keep the diamond in the 9.5+ carat weight, it might be worthwhile, depending on the final price paid at auction. The original price paid by the collector was substantially lower than the current value, and in fact was undervalued for insurance purposes. It is a local jewelry appraiser that discovered the true value and informed the owners. That being said, this trend can continue for this diamond if it is repolished to a higher clarity and its value subsequently increased. This is certainly possible because it has happened in the past (with the now famous Wittelsbach-Graff blue diamond).
The 10.07 carat Fancy Intense Purple-Pink VS1 diamond ring
A colorless diamond worth mentioning from the auction is the 40.43 carat D color Flawless Round shaped diamond. It is also qualified as a Triple Ex, meaning that it exhibits excellent polish, excellent symmetry and excellent cut. It is a top tier diamond because of all of these qualifications.
The 40.43 carat D color Flawless Round shaped diamond, two angles
It is valued between $7 million to $10 million, which is actually quite an ambitious valuation for such a volatile market as the colorless diamond market. But it is, after all, an exceptional colorless diamond. Even in these not so easy times for the industry, rare diamonds, even colorless, can command high prices under the hammer. The price per carat value for the diamond is $173k to $247k per carat. The current record holder for price per carat for a colorless diamond is the famous Elizabeth Taylor Diamond, a 33.19 carat D color Flawless asscher cut diamond ring which sold for just over $1.328 million per carat back in 2011.
The Elizabeth Taylor Diamond, a 33.19 carat D color Flawless asscher cut diamond ring
The Jubilee Ruby
The headliner, the top Lot of the evening, is the now famous 15.99 carat ruby named “The Jubilee Ruby”. Rubies of this rareness have been commanding record prices in auction for the last 2 years, stemming both from size and rarity of color, mainly those graded as “pigeon red”. In the case of the Jubilee, none of the three certificates describing the details of the ruby attribute the color pigeon red to it. The appeal and romance behind the ruby is the well formulated story by Christie’s. We also have to remember that importing Mogok Ruby (rubies from the Mogok village in Burma) into the USA has its own challenges, so I am not sure how this is legally being offered in New York. Perhaps it has been proven that the ruby has been in the USA prior to the rule changes.
The Jubilee Ruby, a 15.99 carat Mogok ruby and diamond ring
It is valued at $12 million to $15 million, and may potentially break the record per carat, which is currently held by the 25.59 carat ruby named the Sunrise Ruby. The Sunrise Ruby was sold for $30.336 million or $1.185 million per carat in Geneva on May 12, 2015 by Sotheby’s. If we want this 15.99 carat ruby to break the record, it must sell for no less than $19 million total.
The Sunrise Ruby, a 25.59 carat “pigeon blood” ruby sold for $30.336 million
One of the most interesting things that we noted about this auction was how recently most of the diamonds have been graded, proving that Christie’s pulled together its diamonds relatively last minute compared to previous years. This difficulty proves yet again how rare it is to find fancy color diamonds in the market, and how rarer still it is to find people who are willing to sell theirs. This is true even for more common colors, like yellow, and for diamonds of less significant clarities or carat weights! This scarcity lends itself to their value and desirability, which is how the auctions earn such big money under the hammer. However, fancy color diamonds are not only sold at auction, and the truth remains that the majority of fancy color diamond transactions are not done so publicly. This means that much rarer and more valuable fancy color diamonds exist and trade hands, and that not all diamonds have prices that are made aware to the public eye. All of these factors together contribute to the state of fancy color diamonds in the market today – expensive and only increasing in this way. That is why auction houses also focus on gemstones, like the Jubilee Ruby. They aim to spread this high demand to another market segment, which similarly fulfills the market need, and will add another major revenue source for them.
Perhaps the Jubilee Ruby will prove that ruby prices are on the rise as well. What do you think? Are gemstone prices also increasing like those of diamonds? Will the Jubilee Ruby break the Sunrise Ruby’s record? Tell us what you think in the comments!
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