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SOTHEBY'S

Millions to trade hands in Geneva autumn auctions

A brooch commissioned by a French empress, or perhaps an iconic watch considered the most complicated ever made entirely by hand?

Millions to trade hands in Geneva autumn auctions
Photo: AFP/File

The list of spectacular pieces on sale at Christie's and Sotheby's traditional autumn jewel and watch auctions in Geneva this week is long, with nearly $200 million expected to change hands.
   
Wealthy collectors from around the world have descended on the Swiss city for four action-packed days at the two competing auction houses.
   
Christie's kicked off the bidding frenzy Sunday with a special auction to mark 175 years of Patek Philippe watches, which saw 100 wrist and pocket watches go under the hammer for a total of $19,731,099.
   
That was double the original estimate, and set nine world records in the process, said Christie's, which raked in another $15 million on a second round of watch sales Monday evening.
   
Most exciting on the watch scene this week though is another Patek Philippe creation billed as the most famous and expensive watch in the world, set to go under the hammer at Sotheby's on Tuesday.

The auction house hopes to pocket a smooth $15 million for the celebrated timepiece known as the "Henry Graves Supercomplication" after its original owner, a New York banker who ordered it in 1925.
   
Weighing in at more than half a kilo, the gold open-face chronograph is comprised of 900 separate hand-crafted parts that took Patek Philippe five years to piece together.

 Symbolizes strength, power, money 

"This is not a watch you can wear," a watch industry expert told AFP.

"It is a watch that symbolizes strength, power and money," 

It displays not only the hour but also a plethora of other indicators: a perpetual calendar, the phases of the moon, sidereal time, indications for the time of sunset and sunrise, and the shifting night sky over Manhattan.
   
Its Westminster chimes sing joyfully every 15 minutes
   
The watch has been on the block once before, at a Sotheby's auction in New York in December 1999, when the Time Museum in Rockford, Illinois closed its doors and emptied its inventory.
   
That time, the exquisite timepiece went for $11 million.
   
The auction houses are also both hosting their traditional Magnificent Jewel sales this week, with Christie's headlining its sale on Tuesday with a piece drawn from the French Crown jewels.
   
The mythical diamond-decked "Feuilles de Groseillier" brooch was commissioned by Empress Eugenie in 1855 and was created by French jeweller Alfred Bapst.
   
The piece, valued at $2-3 million had not been seen at auction in 125 years, Christie's said, stressing that it was "extremely rare for a jewel of such historic importance to be offered for sale."
   
Sotheby's is also presenting a bit of royal history at its competing auction on Wednesday, offering up a stunning pearl necklace that once belonged to Josephine de Beauharnais (1807-1876), who became queen of Sweden and Norway.
   
Sotheby's jewel chief David Bennet suggested the pearls, expected to fetch up to $1.5 million, may even have been handed down by the queen's grandmother and namesake, the first wife of Napoleon Bonaparte.
   
"It may well be that these pearls were originally in her collection as well," Bennet told AFP.
   
Sotheby's will also be offering several pieces from the Dimitri Mavrommatis collection of precious stones and avant-garde jewellery, led by the "Graff Ruby".
   
The glimmering 8.62-carat blood-red rock, mounted on a ring, was acquired by Graff in 2006 for $3.6 million and later sold to Dimitri Mavrommatis for an undisclosed sum.
   
It is expected to fetch between $6.8 million and $9 million at Wednesday's auction.

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DIAMOND

‘Incomparable’ $50-million pink diamond smashes record at Geneva auction

An exceptionally rare pink diamond of nearly 19 carats fetched 50.3 million Swiss francs ($50 million, 44 million euros) at auction in Geneva Tuesday, Christie's said, setting a new per-carat record for a stone of its kind.

'Incomparable' $50-million pink diamond smashes record at Geneva auction
The Pink Legacy auction in Geneva on Tuesday. Photo: AFP

The Pink Legacy, which once belonged to the Oppenheimer family who for decades ran the De Beers diamond-mining company, was snapped up by American luxury brand Harry Winston, part of the Swiss Swatch group.

“$2.6 million per carat. That is a world record per carat for a pink diamond,” said Francois Curiel, head of Christie's in Europe, of the price that included all fees and commissions.

“This stone is for me the Leonardo da Vinci of diamonds.”

The Pink Legacy's classic rectangular cut is traditionally used for white stones, but is rare for pink diamonds. Photo: AFP

The 18.96-carat diamond was discovered in a South African mine around a century ago, Christie's said. It was probably cut in the 1920s and has not been altered since.

The stone was immediately rechristened the “Winston Pink Legacy” by its buyers.

Christie's international head of jewellery, Rahul Kadakia, described it as “one of the world's greatest diamonds”.

The rectangular-cut stone has been graded “fancy vivid” — the highest possible grade of colour intensity — as it has no trace of another hue like purple, orange or brown.

Most pink diamonds weigh less than one carat and those in the top colour category with more than 10 carats are virtually unheard of at auction houses.

The Pink Legacy is classed as Type IIa, meaning it is extremely chemically pure, a category only two percent of diamonds fall into.

“These are stones that have little if any trace of nitrogen,” said Kadakia, adding that this often gives Type IIa diamonds “exceptional transparency and brilliance”.

Emerald cut

“Imagine a domino that you have cut the corners off of,” Jean-Marc Lunel, an international jewellery specialist at Christie's, recently told AFP, describing the stone's unusual shape.

He pointed out that the diamond has a “classical so-called emerald cut” — standing out from the typical cuts used today, which are more rounded and multi-faceted.

The classic rectangular cut is traditionally used for white stones, but is rare for pink diamonds.

Christie's said the Pink Legacy is “the largest and finest Fancy Vivid Pink diamond ever offered at auction by the company”, calling the stone “incomparable”.

“It is probably the most beautiful (specimen) ever presented at public auction,” Lunel said.

Christie's said only four vivid pink diamonds of over 10 carats have ever been offered at auction.

One of them, the nearly 15-carat Pink Promise, was sold last November at a Christie's auction in Hong Kong for $32.5 million. 

That amounts to $2.176 million per carat, which was previously the world auction record price per carat for any pink diamond.

The Pink Legacy's record-smashing price accounted for nearly half the takings at Tuesday's auction, which saw total sales of more than $110 million, according to Christie's spokeswoman Alexandra Kindermann.

While 86 percent of the lots found a buyer, a big heart-shaped white diamond of 53 carats, expected to fetch around $3 to 5 million, went unsold.

Another Geneva auction is set cause a buzz on Wednesday when Marie Antoinette's diamonds and pearls go under the hammer at Sotheby's.

The dazzling treasures, which have not been seen in public for two centuries, are part of a 100-piece collection held by the Italian royal House of Bourbon-Parma.

A diamond parure composed of 95 diamonds, including five solitaire diamonds that belonged to Marie-Antoinette. Photo: Sotheby's/AFP