Diamonds, royal gems seek good prices in revived market

Fri May 7, 2010 12:20pm EDT
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By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA (Reuters Life!) - Huge diamonds and gems with royal cachet are expected to fetch strong prices next week as buyers chase unique pieces in a revived international jewelry market, rival auction houses said on Friday.

The semi-annual sales in Geneva, Europe's capital for jewels on the block, follow highly successful results in both Hong Kong and New York, according to Christie's and Sotheby's.

Collectors from Asia, especially China, and the Middle East are increasingly bidding for top-quality gems in the Swiss city alongside traditional buyers from Europe and the United States.

"The market now seems to have returned in great strength. Last year was one of our best years," David Bennett, chairman of Sotheby's Europe and Middle East jewelry department, told Reuters in an interview.

Sotheby's, which had record sales in Hong Kong last month, expects to net 35 million Swiss francs ($32.77 million) at its jewelry and watch sales in Geneva.

"The vast majority of the sale comes from private owners. Virtually all the noble section has never been on the market before. The jewels are fresh and quality is very high," he said.

"Period jewelry, collection jewelry and noble jewelry are getting scarcer and scarcer. Competition is growing and estimates are being exceeded quite comfortably. Also for fine diamonds and colored stones," Bennett added.

Jean-Marc Lunel, head of Christie's jewelry department in Switzerland, said buyers are paying top prices for high-quality diamonds, colored gem stones and jewels of special provenance.   Continued...

<p>A Patek Philippe ref. 1527 watch with perpetual calendar and chronograph is pictured during an auction preview at Christie's in Geneva May 7, 2010. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse</p>