A magnificent 20.05 carat diamond sold at auction on 7 December 2021 in Sydney, breaking the previous record, which was set in the same sale room in April 2021. Committed to keeping our clients abreast of developments in the jewellery industry – and particularly the diamond world – Paul Bram filed the following report.
High end markets around the world experienced astonishing growth during 2021. This was the case in many countries and Australia was no exception.
There were huge leaps in prices paid for property and luxury goods; records were broken left, right and centre.
Real estate sales boomed in Australia and particularly premium and luxury properties – the top tier. Hyper-expensive designer goods, art, collectible cars & wine were snapped up or wrangled over by cashed up bidders at on-line auctions. The reasons for this spending frenzy have been analysed and written about at length. Various elements contributed to the 2021 splurge. For some people, a lot of money actually accumulated exponentially during the pandemic – and they looked for interesting ways to blow it. Other people felt the need to invest in assets which are traditionally seen to be safe, such as property and gold. Perhaps some people simply got caught up in the excitement of the cash splash; wanting to get amongst it! No doubt many found some relief from the lockdown doldrums by purchasing high quality products and items.
No surprise then, that top end jewellery and diamond sales flourished in 2021, and seemingly continue to intensify. We took a closer look:
In Australia, a bunch of records were set, broken and re-set during the last 12 months.
It began in April 2021, when auctioneers Leonard Joel set a new record, with the sale of a 25.02 carat diamond for $1,125,000 IBP (including buyers’ premium). This caused quite a stir at the time. But it was not to be a flash in the pan. The same auction house conducted the sales of a remarkable diamond and fancy pink diamond ring for $725,000 IBP and a fabulous 17.35 carat platinum and diamond ring for $575,000 IPB.
A few months later on 7 December 2021 at Leonard Joel’s Sydney rooms, an enormous 20.05 carat diamond ring sold for $1,625,000, smashing the auctioneers’ April yardstick. This ring was a spectacular solitaire, crafted in classical form, with elegant lines and captivating sparkle. The beautifully proportioned emerald cut stone claw-set above a gallery pave-set with brilliant-cut diamonds, flanked by trapezoid diamonds, mounted in platinum.
A local buyer snapped it up on the night of the auction, said to have fallen in love at first sight with the stunner when viewing it earlier that day.
It was an amazing year for Joel’s, who hold auctions in Melbourne and Sydney. 2021 marked 40 years of jewellery sales for the firm and they certainly celebrated in style. They now hold the records for the four most expensive diamonds ever sold at auction in Australia.
Leonard Joel was not the only player to sell some precious stones at staggering prices though. A number of Argyle pink diamonds have been sold recently by tender for eye-watering amounts in the millions. Argyle pink diamonds are extremely rare and valuable, and are often sold by the slightly different process of tender. The Australian based company Your diamonds conducts a unique tender process with an international reach. They reported some incredible results in 2021 and expect to see more in 2022. Many of the superlative pink diamonds on offer with them had been held by a small group of vendors for many years. Those sellers saw a vast return on their initial investments – often exceeding 500%.
Auctions, tenders and private treaties
High value items like real estate and exceptional diamonds are often sold by these three means. They all have the same objective, but vary slightly in the sale process. No method is necessarily better than the other, but will better suit different settings and vendors for various reasons.
Auctions are a traditional and ideally transparent way of selling, where the registered bidders contest each other on an open and level playing field. This can lead to a volatile atmosphere, where prices are driven up by competing would-be buyers. This can often result in excellent results for vendors and for the auctioneers.
However, auctions can be unpredictable, and if for whatever reason, a ‘lot’ fails to sell at auction, it can be not only disappointing for the vendor, but difficult to put it up for sale subsequently and achieve a good outcome. There’s an old stigma about property which fails to sell at auction the first time around, as though it has somehow been tainted.
Tender is a more subtle way of selling high value properties, including diamonds. It’s a bit like a silent auction. Interested buyers are invited to individually submit offers. No-one knows what others may be bidding, so they must simply put in their best possible offer. This often leads to bids being proffered which are well in excess of an estimated market value.
The tender process is more discreet, slower, does not involve any of the adrenaline of the auction room. Though some of the results obtained may well cause a rush of blood to the head!
Private Treaty sales of diamonds and other high-value items are sometimes conducted by auction houses, outside of the normal auction process. This is when the vendor and a potential buyer decide to negotiate privately over the sale of an item. The auctioneers usually still act as agent, and take a commission. Private treaty takes the pressure out of the transaction, and allows extended time and consideration for both parties. Private treaty is also still the most common way houses are sold in Australia.
International sales trends
The global market for diamonds has been booming too. Prices for rough diamonds have increased in 2021 by 20-40%, which is significant indeed. The biggest supplier, De Beers, increased their prices five times during the past 12 months, which is extraordinary. At most of the sales venues which wholesalers attend, the majority of the offerings have been selling for record prices. The feeling within the supply and wholesale side of the industry is that there will be an even greater lift in diamond sales once pandemic restrictions ease further in 2022.
At the big auction houses around the world there have been hundreds of astonishing results in 2021. We list 10 of the most notable below, in no particular order. The prices are all USD.
The ‘Sakura Diamond.’ A vivid purple-pink diamond ring, 15.8 carats, internally flawless. The name means cherry blossom in Japanese, the diamond reflecting a saturated pink tone comparable to the flower so venerated in that country. It’s the biggest vivid purple-pink stone to go to auction ever, and it fetched $29.3 million dollars at Christies Magnificent Jewels in Hong Kong on May 23.
A 6.11 carat fancy intense blue diamond ring. Sold at Sotheby’s Magnificent Jewels auction on 7 December, New York. A very rare stone; the combination of quality and exquisite blue colour not often seen. It made $8 million dollars.
A pear shaped, 101.38 carat D flawless diamond ring. The second largest pear-shaped diamond to present at auction ever. It was sold in Hong Kong at Sotheby’s Magnificent Jewels, July 9. A buyer paid $12.3 million using cryptocurrency. The leading auction houses now accept Bitcoin and Ethereum payments.
A fancy blue, 7 carat pear-shaped diamond ring, platinum set. An uncommon pale fire blue; a wonderfully elegant piece. At Christie’s Magnificent Jewels in New York on December 8, achieved $2.2 million.
A heart-shaped diamond necklace. 24.45 carat D flawless. Sold for $2 million at Christies Jewels Online: Summer Sparkle, August 4-18. It’s rare for a heart-shaped diamond of this quality and size to come up for sale. This was the second highest price paid for an item in an on-line sale at the auction house.
The Chrysler Diamond. A 54.03 carat D flawless pear-shaped diamond. Sold for $5 million at Christie’s Magnificent Jewels, New York on 8 June. Once owned by Louis XIV, King of France. Later purchased by the Chrysler family, the American railroad and automotive dynasty and namesake of one of the world’s most recognisable buildings. It’s a type 2a diamond, which is pretty much as good as it gets. Less than 1% of gem quality diamonds reside in this category.
Harry Winston diamond and platinum earrings, circa 1957. At Phillips Jewels, New York on June 25, sold for $390,600. A classic Harry Winston piece featuring two gorgeous pear-shaped diamonds and two marquise-cut diamonds, together weighing just over 13 carats; an elegant design in a subtle platinum setting by one of the world’s most beloved jewellers.
The Dancing Sun. A 204.36 carat fancy intense yellow diamond, unmounted. At Christie’s Magnificent Jewels, New York on June 8, sold for $4.9 million. The incredible size and colour of this ‘mega-diamond’; actually an historical geological specimen, cut from the largest polished diamond ever recovered in North America, at the Diavik Diamond Mine near the Arctic Circle in Canada’s north west.
A 50.03 unmounted G colour round diamond. At Sotheby’s New York on June 17, fetched $2.7 million. This was an intriguing result, as it was the first occasion where the auction house had offered a major diamond without reserve, i.e. there was no minimum bid. It attracted a flurry of bidding and set a new record for a jewel sold in an on-line auction.
An oval-shaped diamond and platinum ring, circa 1920. The 8.21 carat knockout piece sold for $500,313 at Bonhams New York Jewels, May 19. Very much admired during the viewing, there followed a bidding frenzy on the night, and it went way over the auction estimate due to its timeless charm and intense sparkle.
It will be fascinating to see how the market for high end diamonds and jewellery evolves in 2022. We will be keeping a close eye on it and promise to keep all our esteemed clients up to date and well informed.