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LUXURY

Swiss watch exports tick ahead nicely in April

Exports of Swiss watches rose nearly 14 percent year on year in April, trade figures showed on Tuesday, aided by strong demand from prime market Hong Kong.

Swiss watch exports tick ahead nicely in April
A giant screen at the stand of Swiss watchmaker Patek Philippe on the eve of the opening of the 2018 Baselworld watch and jewellery show in March. Photo: AFP

“After a relatively calm March, growth moved ahead strongly in April,” the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry said, noting exports for the first four months of the year rose 11 percent on the same period of 2017 to 6.7 billion Swiss francs (€5.8 billion, $6.75 billion).

March growth had been tepid at 4.8 percent, down on January's 12.6 and February's 12.9.

Read also: Sufficiently Swiss – at least 60 percent for watches

April's recovery of 13.8 percent saw exports hit 1.76 billion francs, driven by a healthy 43.4 percent rise in sales – a six-year high – to Hong Kong, a lucrative Asian market hub.

Other key markets also saw large rises, with exports to China and the United States clocking up increases of 11 percent and 12.8 percent respectively.

Europe was a mixed picture with German sales up 12.8 percent but sliding 14.7 percent in Britain, continuing a recent trend as the United Kingdom wrestles with Brexit.

The global picture has been healthier since a difficult period across 2015 and 2016 saw the sector take a hit after China introduced anti-counterfeiting measures, helping knock back sales of luxury goods.

That fallow period began with 2014 sit-in street protests in Hong Kong, dubbed the Umbrella Revolution, which saw a tail-off in visitor numbers from the mainland to the territory where many Chinese do much of their luxury shopping.

Terror attacks in Europe also had an effect on the European market in hitting tourism.

Read also: Six Swiss wedding gifts fit for a prince and his bride

LUXURY

Geneva: rare pink diamond aims to make $50 million

The Pink Legacy, an exceptionally large pink diamond, is set to go under the hammer at Christie's in Geneva on Tuesday, when it is expected to bring in up to $50 million.

Geneva: rare pink diamond aims to make $50 million
Christie's have refused to say who the current owner of the Pink Legacy is. Photo: AFP

At nearly 19 carats, the vividly coloured gem is extraordinary, Jean-Marc Lunel, an international jewellery specialist at Christie's, told AFP.

“If you consider that most pink diamonds weigh less than a carat, it is really something,” he said.

Read also: Marie Antoinette's exquisite jewels up for auction in Geneva

The gem, which on November 13th will be offered at auction for the first time, has been estimated at between $30 million and $50 million (€26.5-€44.1 million), and Lunel suggested it could hit the high end of that range.

“It is probably the most beautiful (specimen) ever presented at public auction,” he said, insisting there was good reason to expect the rock to snatch an extraordinary price.

The Pink Legacy is said to have been discovered in a South African mine around a century ago. Photo: AFP

The rectangular-cut diamond has been graded “fancy vivid” – the highest possible grade of colour intensity.

Christie's pointed out that in the salesroom, fancy vivid pink diamonds over 10 carats are “virtually unheard of” and that only four vivid pink diamonds or over 10 carats have ever been offered for sale 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 remains the world auction record price per carat for any pink diamond.

And in 2013, a huge pink diamond weighing 59.60 carats meanwhile went under the hammer at Sotheby's for $83 million, or $1.39 million per carat.

The Pink Legacy, set to headline Christie's annual Magnificent Jewels auction on Tuesday, used to belong to the Oppenheimer family, which for decades ran the De Beers diamond mining company, but Christie's refused to say who the current owner was.

It was discovered in a South African mine around a century ago, Lunel said.

“It was probably cut in the 1920s,” he said, adding that it had not been altered since.

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

“Imagine a domino that you have cut the corners off of,” Lunel said, pointing out that the cut is a “classical so-called emerald cut”, which stands out from the typical, more rounded, multi-facetted cuts used today.

Rahul Kadakia, Christie's international head of jewellery, meanwhile said in a statement in September that he expected The Pink Legacy to “cause immense excitement with collectors and connoisseurs of diamonds around the world”.

“Its exceptional provenance will no doubt propel it into a class of its own as one of the world's greatest diamonds.”