Christie’s is changing the modus operandi of its June jewelry sale in New York. While typically heralded as an “Important Jewels” sale, this year the auction house has upped the ante — labeling the June installment as a “Magnificent Jewels” sale, which it says is the byproduct of a globalizing jewelry trade.
The June 9 sale is estimated to bring between $35 million and $45 million. By contrast, last year’s June sale realized just over $27.5 million.
Christie’s international jewelry director Tom Burstein said that the switch is “property-driven.” This sale, for instance, includes “The Cullinan Dream” — the largest fancy intense blue diamond ever offered at auction.
“Over the last few years [jewelry] has become such an international market and a market that operates 365 days a year, without distinct seasons — if the property is right it can now be offered at any time of year,” he said. “Five, six, seven years ago we would have said ‘let’s hold off [on more valuable pieces] for fall.’”
High-wattage jewelry bidders no longer feel restricted to bidding on lots sold in their local regions — a trend that Burstein says has been mounting in the last “five years.” As such, “June gives us an advantage — we were able to bring the highlights [from this New York sale] to Geneva, where they were on view at our exhibition last week, and then they traveled to Hong Kong and went on view there. It’s a really great opportunity to captivate clients in their home base,” he said.
Burstein attributed the shift toward globalized bidding to advances in technology. “Twenty years ago it was a big deal if we had a telephone bid that someone had called in from a private plane. Now there are so many ways a client has access to bidding — it makes it a lot easier. They can literally be on their smart phone and doing it,” he said.
The June Magnificent Jewels sale will be led by the Cullinan Dream diamond — a fancy intense blue stone weighing 24.18 carats. It is estimated to bring between $23 million and $29 million.
The stone was pulled from South Africa’s Cullinan mine in 2014 — making its auction buyer “the stone’s first primary individual owner,” said Burstein. “It would be the first step in its history.”
The Cullinan Dream was cut from a 122.52-carat rough blue diamond stone — which ultimately yielded four individual pieces ranging in weight from 7 to 24.18 carats.
The lot’s origin mine also yielded The Star of Africa, a 3,106.75-carat rough diamond that was cut to become the largest polished white diamond in history.