U.S. jewelry manufacturers and retailers remain cautious and are opting for lower quality diamonds, so De Beers did concede some small discounts on higher color goods – but not for the type that have been popular this year.
Diamond manufacturers, however, are grappling with major challenges that show no signs of easing: diminishing availability of credit; softening polished prices that make De Beers sight purchases a break-even venture at best; and inventories that have been building over the past several years because of production exceeding sales.
The Dec. 8-12 sight is traditionally quite small, but may swell because of clients’ obligation to take sight goods they had refused earlier in the year – about $50 million by some estimates.
De Beers has reportedly committed $100 million to advertise its diamond jewelry brand Forevermark in the U.S. this fall to help spur holiday sales.
AUCTIONS: The one part of the gem market that continues to thrive is the extreme top end of auctions. Both Christie’s and Sotheby’s again turned in record sales – and this season, colored stones garnered most of the buyer action.
Christie’s Nov. 11 Geneva auction set a record for the highest total ever achieved at a single sale ‒ $150 million ‒ and included 10 lots selling for more than $3.5 million each. In addition, more than half the lots exceeded their pre-sale estimates.
One private buyer paid the highest price ever recorded at auction for a sapphire: $17.3 million for the 392.52 carat (ct) Belle of Asia, more than twice its original estimate. The cushion-shaped gem was discovered in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) in 1926 and is set in a diamond necklace.
London jeweler Laurence Graff paid $15.8 million for a pair of Bulgari earrings featuring a 6.95 ct Fancy Vivid blue pear-shape diamond and a 6.79 ct Fancy Vivid pink pear-shape diamond set with 19.8 cts of colorless diamonds. The diamonds were graded by GIA.
An anonymous buyer paid nearly $6 million for an oval-shaped 23.66 ct Burmese ruby ring mounted by Cartier ‒ $254,000 per carat ‒ while a Middle Eastern dealer acquired a natural pearl and diamond necklace, originally owned by Baroness Edouard de Rothschild, for $5.1 million. Another dealer bought a GIA-graded pear-shape D flawless 20.2 ct diamond set in a diamond necklace for $5.65 million.
A diamond brooch, once the property of Empress Eugenie of France, also sold to an anonymous buyer for $2.3 million. The brooch was fashioned in 1855 by Bapst Jewellers and had been the property of the Metropolitan Opera of New York.
Sotheby’s sale two days later brought in $95.3 million, the top lot being an 8.62 ct cushion cut Burmese ruby that just missed being the first colored gemstone to break the $1 million per carat mark. The ruby sold to Graff for $8.62 million, or $997.727 per carat; both the highest total and per-carat price ever paid for a ruby. Graff had owned the stone before, buying it at auction in 2005.
Just before the ruby went under the auction hammer, anonymous buyers paid $5.98 million for a step-cut 27.54 ct Kashmir sapphire and $7.14 million for a pair of GIA-graded Type IIa D flawless diamonds, weighing 20.05 cts and 20.06 cts respectively. Graff also bought a 3.16 Fancy Intense blue diamond for $3.2 million, or just over $1 million per carat.