Investment Jewellery in the Spotlight at London Auctions

Investment Jewellery in the Spotlight at London Auctions

For those in the know, the month of June means a plethora of auctions, hosted by some of the most prestigious London auction houses.

This year, it was extremely rare signed jewellery pieces that secured the most furious bidding, with many reflecting the importance of family heirlooms passed down from one generation to the next.

2018 appears to be the year of the tiara and the brooch, with both types of jewellery fetching sale prices far above their pre-sale estimates at the Christie’s and Sotheby’s London sales.

Lots 377-378 - 1930s sapphire and diamond bracelet, Cartier + ring
A 1930s sapphire and diamond bracelet and ring by Cartier. As sold by Sotheby’s in London.

What makes a piece of jewellery collectable? Rarity is perhaps the most important condition for a piece of jewellery to become an investment, followed by its intrinsic beauty. Jewellery from certain periods do better than others. Art Deco pieces saw exceptional demand at the auction sales, as collectors are captivated by the unique, often geometric designs of that era.

Another popular era for investment jewellery is the Belle Époque, a period of optimism before the First World War. Signed, or branded, jewellery is more collectable than unbranded pieces, with certain houses particularly sought after, namely Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels.

Related Blogs: The 10 Most Popular Jewellery Designs that Continue to Sell

Kristian Spofforth, head of the sales department at Sotheby’s in London, commented: “Items with royal provenance always perform well and with attractive estimates the pieces from the collection of King Farouk were no exception: great pieces achieve great results.”

Spofforth was referring to a selection of items formerly in the collection of Egypt’s King Farouk, which achieved big multiples of their pre-sale estimates at Sotheby’s sale on June 6.

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A diamond brooch by Van Cleef & Arpels, formerly in the collection of King Farouk, which was designed as a bird perched on a coral branch, garnered a hammer price of £10,000, soaring above a pre-sale estimate of just £700-£1,500 (see picture below).

Van Cleef & Arpels - Diamond brooch designed as a bird perched on a coral branch - Fine Jewels London 6 May 18

How has the royal wedding influenced jewellery demand? Heirlooms such as tiaras have outperformed in the secondary market this year, helped no doubt by the fact that the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, wore a diamond tiara at her wedding to Prince Harry.

At the Christie’s London sale on June 13, a star lot was a Belle Époque diamond tiara, offered with an extraordinary provenance and formerly the property of HRH The Crown Princess of Yugoslavia and from the collection of the Princes of Orléans Braganza.

With an estimate of £140,000-£210,000, this noble jewel saw competitive bidding and sold for £344,750.

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The sale presented a further selection of tiaras, which achieved outstanding results, including a late 19th century emerald and diamond tiara, with an estimate of £70,000-£90,000, which sold for £224,750.

Lot 129 - Tiara of diamond foliate design - Fine Jewels London 6 May 18
A diamond tiara sold at the Sotheby’s auction earlier this month.

Are we in a new era of brooches? At Christie’s, a late 19th century natural pearl and diamond brooch achieved a hammer price of £90,000, far above its estimate of £20,000-£30,000.

The final lot in the sale, a fine and rare Art Deco coral and diamond jabot pin by Cartier, fetched a hammer price of 1£75,000 pounds, around seven times its estimate.

“The jabot pin was fresh to the market and had an exquisite design,” said Keith Penton, who heads Christie’s London jewellery department.

Diamond Brooch, 1920s - Jewels Online
A diamond brooch from the 1920s.

Related Blogs: Geneva Auctions, Royal Weddings and Heirloom Jewels

What are the challenges in the investment market for jewellery? The market for collectable jewellery is far from perfect. Sometimes highly appealing pieces will fail to attract a buyer, and occasionally a collector will pick up a bargain if there is no competition for an item, and no reserve price.

At one recent auction, a sapphire and diamond ring by renowned brand Buccellati, sold for a hammer price of £1,300, well below its estimate of £4,000-£6,000.

IJL is #withyou offering international insights and auction results that reveal the highs, lows and opportunities for growth in our sparkling industry. Find out more about our 2018 exhibitors or contact a member of our team for more information. 

Disclaimer: this column should not be seen as advice or a recommendation for investment. Any opinions expressed are those of the author.

Main Image: Lot 14 – Diamond tiara, circa 1905, Sotheby’s

David Brough is IJL’s Precious Metals and Gems Editor. David is Co-Founder and Editor of digital magazine Jewellery Outlook and writes monthly precious metals and gemstones Market News for Retail Jeweller magazine. He was a Reuters correspondent and editor for more than 30 years, including 16 years as a foreign correspondent, and covered commodity markets extensively. David won the United Nations A.H. Boerma Award in 2002-3 for his reporting on hunger issues. He graduated from St. Andrews University in Scotland with a MA (Hons) in Economics and French, and has a Certificate in Financial Markets from the Securities Institute of Australia. He speaks fluent French, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian.

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