Expert Insights: Investing In The Jewellery Market In 2018

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Expert Insights: Investing In The Jewellery Market In 2018

Collectors already have their sights set on 2018’s jewellery auctions. With the rising prospect of discovering magnificent jewels and the most lavish fine jewellery on the market, we ask one expert how best to decide which pieces to hunt down and treasure.

Published on 28 March 2018

We may only be nearing the end of March, but at Sotheby’s Jewellery Department, their engines are revving and ready to go, with five auctions planned for this year. In 2017, annual worldwide sales came to an impressive total of US$551.3 million – a figure that, doubtless, the international auction house will be looking to match, or even top, this year.

If last year’s major highlights are anything to go by, the jewellery auction appears to be in good health: Sotheby’s was responsible for the sale of The CTF Pink Star in Hong Kong, which broke the world auction record for any diamond or gemstone after it fetched US$71.2 million at auction in April 2017. Similarly, the US$57.4 million sale of The Memory of Autumn Leaves and The Dream of Autumn Leaves in Geneva last May set a world auction record for earrings, suggesting collectors have a hearty appetite for rare and exceptional jewels.

Even on the internet, bidders from across 103 countries have proved themselves to be quite determined sorts: the most expensive jewellery lot purchased online through Sotheby’s was a 12.81-carat diamond ring, which sold for US$1.2 million in May.

For Jessica Wyndham, the recently appointed head of jewellery for Sotheby’s Hong Kong, the anticipation that accompanies the beginning of a new auction season is palpable. But which direction does she see the jewellery auction market moving in, and which pieces does she feel will be most hotly contested?

We speak with Wyndham about the return of 1920s jewellery, the revival of brooches, and buying a piece of history.

Jewellery, Sotheby’s

WEALTH (W): Looking at the jewellery auction market for 2018, are diamonds forever, or are collectors showing interest in any other jewels?

Jessica Wyndham (JW): Diamonds will never go out of fashion, and in Asia, we see increasing demand for coloured diamonds as collectors become increasingly aware of their rarity and beauty. The main coloured stones – sapphires, rubies and emeralds, particularly if they are high-quality stones without treatment – have also gained pace at auction in recent years. With the rising Chinese market, jadeite jewellery remains strong. As always, the best of the best is never out of fashion.

(W): Are there any jewellery designers who have consistently demonstrated their strength on the auction market?

(JW): Familiarity with the renowned historical jewellery houses will always lead to demand for those pieces at auction, particularly for their most iconic designs, such as the Panthère jewels by Cartier and the zip necklaces by Van Cleef & Arpels. When purchasing a jewel by one of those houses – especially if the piece is one of the original designs – then you’re buying a piece of history.

(W): Additionally, are there any up-and-coming jewellery designers who you think may have a presence on the future auction market?

(JW): There are some amazing and innovative designers around the world, and I’m always pleased to see new creations and gemstones used in unexpected ways.

Jewellery, Sotheby’s

(W): Which upcoming jewellery auctions in 2018 are you most looking forward to?

(JW): Our Hong Kong sales! The excitement of an auction, with the wide range of jewellery offered for sale and the suspense before the hammer falls, is the reason why people want to buy with us. I’m unable to give away much information for now, but I know that we have some very exciting pieces coming up.

(W): In terms of the aesthetic that the modern jewellery auction market seems to prefer, have they been gravitating towards any specific trends?

(JW): There are many different collecting categories within an auction. There are buyers who come to auction specifically for stones, there are those who come for iconic designs, and those interested in the provenance of the jewel with our selection of Estate jewellery. Everyone’s sense of style is different, which is why we’re all unique. That’s why we try to have variety in each sale so that there’s something for everyone.

(W): Is jewellery from a particular era becoming increasingly popular?

(JW): Jewellery from the 1920s has become hugely fashionable again, particularly the bracelets and sautoirs, which buyers are finding easy to wear with contemporary couture. Brooches have also become increasingly popular in recent years, after being dismissed for a long time as old-fashioned and unwearable. Buyers today are seeing the creative potential of decorating outfits, as well as accessories, with brooches spanning the decades from the nineteenth century to the present day.

Jewellery, Sotheby’s

(W): What do you think a jewel or an extraordinary piece of jewellery needs to catch collectors’ eyes and triumph on the auction market?

(JW): Beauty, not only in the design but the quality of the stones used, followed closely by wearability. If there is an exciting provenance behind the jewel as well, then the demand can only increase!

(W): Do provenance and ownership count for a lot when collectors take a piece into consideration for bidding?

(JW): The design and beauty of the jewel is the first consideration for potential buyers. If there is a notable provenance behind the piece that we can disclose, then this heightens the desirability. Jewels with an engaging history behind them, such as those worn by a member of the nobility or a celebrity, are exciting for buyers. Even better, if there is a painting or photograph of that piece being worn, it also adds a sense of authenticity.

(W): How long do collectors usually hold their jewellery before placing them on the auction market again?

(JW): There is no set amount of time for buyers to hold on to jewels that they buy. I’ve had some clients who have sold within a few years of buying because their tastes have changed. Then there are others who have inherited jewellery from a past generation who have a completely different style and taste to their predecessors, and therefore look to sell these pieces in order to buy jewellery which they would enjoy wearing. Sometimes selling those inherited pieces to buy new jewels is a nice way to remember the original owner.

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