Sotheby’s Part II Magnificent Jewels & Nobel Jewels – Geneva sale, the first live jewelry auction since the novel cornavirus pandemic, did not go as planned. Approximately half of the lots went unsold, including the top lot, a 3.01-carat fancy vivid blue step-cut, diamond with VS1 clarity. The diamond was withdrawn from the sale without explanation, one of two lots that were removed. Its estimate was $4.3 – $6.3 million.

“Many unsold items had estimates that were too high,” said Ioannis Alexandris of Gemolithos, a Munich, Germany firm that deals in antique, vintage and estate jewelry and gemstones. In particular, he said the seven Cartier jewels in the sale were priced above what similar items sold for in 2019. Out of the seven Cartier lots, three failed to sell, three sold within estimates and one sold above its estimate.

The top lot of the sale was a 7-carat marquise-shaped fancy intense pink diamond VVS2 clarity, which fetched more than $3 million, including buyers’ premium, within estimates. It’s set on a ring flanked by fancy-shaped diamonds and with a shank lined with brilliant-cut diamonds. It’s the first time this diamond came to auction in more than 30 years, where it was kept in the same private collection. Other standout sales included:

* A 5.29-carat fancy grey-blue diamond with SI1 clarity that sold for more than $2.1 million, nearly double its high estimate.

* A 105.58-carat Ceylon sapphire set on a gold ring fetched $1.8 million, more than double its high estimate of $700,000.

* A pair of earrings featuring a 13.50-carat and 13.52-carat diamond both of D color, VVS2 clarity, and with excellent polish and symmetry that sold for more than $1.5 million, within estimates.

* Among the noble jewels in the sale, an emerald and diamond necklace owned by Consuelo Montagu (1853-1909), Duchess of Manchester, which was given to her as a wedding gift, fetched $489,495, above estimates. The necklace was set with cushion-shaped emeralds framed with circular-cut diamonds.

* Natural pearl drop earrings supported by two cushion-shaped diamonds sold for $317,613, shattering its high estimate of $127,045.

Alexandris said the natural pearl earrings and the Ceylon sapphire were the highlights of the sale. “The pearl drops were really beautiful. They were a very nice, long shape and the luster was really nice so the price was good,” he said. “Generally, natural pearls are very strong at the moment.”

In regards to the Celyon sapphire, he says that even though it sold well above its estimate the per-carat price it achieved was “actually the right price.”

However, the good news pretty much ended with those sales. By my count, 23 of the 49 lots failed to find a bidder (not including the two lots that were withdrawn). A number of fancy colored diamonds, colorless diamonds, colored gems and signed jewels failed to find buyers. Among them were:

* A 21.56-carat D color, VVS1 clarity diamond by Lorraine Schwartz, an American bespoke high jewelry designer with a large celebrity clientele. The gem has excellent polish and symmetry. Its estimate was $1.5 million – $2 million.

* A 16.43-carat fancy vivid yellow diamond with VS2 clarity, and excellent polish and symmetry. Its estimate was $900,000 – $1.3 million

* A 4.09-carat fancy pink, internally flawless diamond. Its estimate was $878,446 – $1 million

* 4.50-carat Burmese, unheated “pigeon’s blood” ruby set on a diamond ring. Its estimate was $370,429 – $465,682.

* A necklace with three strands of graduated natural pearls measuring from 3.95mm to 10.80mm with an estimate of $211,673 – $317,510.

* A Cartier ruby and diamond necklace with an estimate of $158,755 – $264,592.

Signed jewels experienced mixed results but there were some highlights. Among them:

* A Harry Winston necklace made with a graduated fringe design set throughout with sugarloaf and cabochon rubies, and further enhanced with pear-, marquise-shaped and brilliant-cut diamonds. It sold for $502,725, within estimates.

* A Cartier necklace set with circular- and single-cut diamonds, supporting two flexible lines of circular-cut diamonds set within octagonal collets, a 3.03-carat step-cut emerald, with a drop-shaped detachable pendant set with circular-cut and rose diamonds. It sold for $317,510, well above its high estimate.

* A necklace by Fred set with oval emeralds weighing 4.43, 4.69 and 14.32 carats, highlighted with brilliant-cut and pear-shaped diamonds. It sold for $251,362, within estimates.

* A Van Cleef & Arpels ring set with a 10.03-carat diamond with H color, VS1 clarity, between baguette diamond shoulders. It sold for $238,133, within estimates.

The effects of the worldwide pandemic is still being felt and is most likely why the sale consists of only 48 lots, far fewer than what is usually offered for a Geneva jewelry auction. Watching Sotheby’s livestream the sale appeared businesslike and it was completed in just over an hour.

While the live sale may have been challenging, it is accompanied by a timed online auction that seems to have attracted some spirited bidding.  Sotheby’s Part I Magnificent Jewels & Nobel Jewels – Geneva has 178 lots dating from the 19th century through to the present day. The sale, which began June 16, ends Wednesday. One of the lots that is attracting the most interest among collectors is a Cartier carved coral and diamond Chimera bangle, circa 1970, from a private collection. So far the high bid is $429,670, nearly five times its $90,450 high estimate.

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