Jewel prices soar to twice estimates at gem auction

Tue May 11, 2010 6:23pm EDT
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By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA (Reuters) - Huge flawless diamonds and pieces by Cartier, Bulgari and other big-name jewelers sold for several times estimated prices at a Sotheby's sale on Tuesday night, the auctioneer said.

The semi-annual sale in Geneva, Europe's capital for jewels at auction, netted 60 million Swiss francs ($54.10 million), nearly double the low end of its pre-sale estimate.

"There were very, very strong prices for high-quality jewels. A mix of period pieces, jewels of royal provenance and spectacular gems all found new owners, many times exceeding the estimate," David Bennett, chairman of Sotheby's Europe and Middle East jewelry department, told Reuters.

Some 50 percent of lots sold for above their estimate, he said. "It's a tremendous result."

Top lot was a blue cushion-shaped diamond weighing 7.64 carats, mounted in a yellow gold and platinum ring, which went for a whopping 8.93 million francs to an anonymous buyer who paid double the pre-sale estimate.

"This is a world record per carat for a fancy, intense blue diamond at auction," Bennett told a packed salesroom as he brought down the hammer to applause.

A white emerald-cut diamond weighing 52.82 carats, which he called "one of the most beautiful stones to come to auction for several years", fetched 8.8 million francs after hectic bidding.

It went to a U.S. jewelry dealer, according to Sotheby's, whose pre-sale estimate was just over 7 million francs for the flawless stone with top grading for polish and symmetry.   Continued...