GENEVA (Reuters Life!) - Diamonds and signed vintage jewels netted strong prices at Christie's semi-annual sales in Geneva, signaling that the international market has returned to full strength, the auction house said on Thursday.
The star lot on Wednesday night, which followed modern art sales in New York last week, was a flawless white diamond weighing 40.21 carats sold for 5.69 million Swiss francs ($5.14 million) to an anonymous buyer, it said. The rectangular-cut stone was estimated at $4.5 million-$5.5 million.
"The vigor seen in the US and Asia was equaled here in Europe, with strong prices achieved for fine jeweler, watches and wine. demand for stellar examples rivaled that seen at the height of the market, which very much seems to have returned 'en force'," Francois Curiel, President of Christie's Switzerland, said in a statement.
Christie's jeweler sales totaled $33.9 million, above the high end of its pre-auction estimate, with some 89 percent of the 220 lots on offer finding new owners, it said.
Rival Sotheby's (ADD RIC) netted 60 million Swiss francs ($54.10 million), almost double the low end of its pre-sale estimate, at its jeweler sales in the Swiss city on Tuesday.
Jean-Marc Lunel, head of Christie's jeweler department in Geneva, European capital for jewel auctions, said of its own results: "Once again diamonds dominated the total, although signed period jewels proved the most popular pieces in the sale.
"Two private collections of fine vintage jeweler virtually sold out for $9.9 million, while every lot in the special 'Cartier section' found a buyer, achieving a total of $4.2 million," he said.
Among the Cartier pieces was a 1928 "Tutti Frutti" bracelet from the Art Deco period, set with rubies, sapphires, diamonds, and emerald and onyx beads, which soared to 1.023 million Swiss francs, more than five times its pre-sale estimate. Hancocks & Co, London-based traders, bought it, according to the statement.
A stunning necklace set with 20 round diamonds, known as a riviere, went for 5.25 million Swiss francs to an Asian private collector, it said. The estimate was $1.8 million-$2.4 million for the piece dripping with 155.17 carats worth of diamonds.
A diamond and enamel brooch designed by award-winning British jeweler Shaun Leane, who named it "White Light" after being inspired by a Dylan Thomas poem about the first snow of winter, went for 1.1 million Swiss francs to a New York jeweler dealer, Christie's said.
Its 13 pear-shaped Steinmetz diamonds and smaller pave diamonds mounted in white gold weigh nearly 41 carats.
"It is an extraordinary jewel, a modern contemporary creation and of course a unique piece," Lunel told Reuters before the sale.
Editing by Paul Casciato