Today, the market for fine jewels and gemstones is stronger than ever, with numerous new world records having been broken in the past 12 months.
Over the past few years, we have realised many people are unaware of the value of the contents of their jewellery box. Among the most sought-after jewels today are high-quality white and coloured diamonds – with blue, pink and yellow stones being among the rarest. We have also seen very strong demand for the finest coloured gemstones – the most desirable of these include sapphires from Kashmir, rubies from Myanmar and emeralds from Colombia.
There is also tremendous interest today in natural pearls. In our recent flagship sales of jewellery in Geneva, numerous pearl pieces sold for many multiples of their pre-sale estimates.
The valuation process
Throughout history, jewels have always been perceived as a store of value, which have the advantage of being small and portable. They have also been a way of diversifying assets. More recently, jewels have started to be perceived as a form of art in themselves and unique creations by some of the great houses, Cartier, Boucheron, Van Cleef & Arpels and others have started to be collected by a wider audience than before.
If you are interested in finding out more about the value of your collection, there are a number of factors that will be important to bear in mind:
• Quality: the value of a piece, is of course, greatly influenced by quality. For a diamond or precious stone this is determined based on the colour, cut and weight of the stone, as well as its origin, if known. For signed jewels, look for the quality of the craftsmanship and the complexity involved in designing and creating the piece, as well as the quality of the materials it is made of.
• Condition: it is important to examine the condition of the jewel, to see if any parts have been damaged or lost and how much, if any, evidence there is of wear.
• Provenance: important or historical provenance can greatly increase the value of a piece of fine jewellery. Be sure to take into account any known historical connections, official commissions or noteworthy written references. If a jewel has been part of a well-known exhibition, this can also add value.
• Authentication: paperwork is precious. Certificates which accompany a jewel can be hugely important as they can attest to its quality or provide provenance for the piece, such as the geographical origin of a stone, the creator of a jewel or its previous owners.
• Freshness to the market: among the most sought-after jewels are those that have not appeared on the market before – for example if a jewel was commissioned by a family and handed down through generations, or if it has been held in the same collection for some time.
Selling at auction
On the one hand, auctions give buyers the opportunity to discover extraordinary jewels, and on the other, sellers feel comfortable as they know that auction houses can introduce their jewels into a hungry and completely international marketplace. A collector who consigns a piece for auction can choose to retain anonymity and can agree a reserve price with the auctioneer – below which the item will not be sold.
In today’s truly global market, our specialists are ideally placed to provide advice on the best sale location and timing for a particular piece.
With so many new buyers entering the market for fine jewels, auctions possess the unique advantage of a global public forum where potential buyers can see the competition and feel comfortable about the bidding.
Knowledge of the market
Learn all you can about the field and the market: many specialists tour and give lectures on jewellery, and museums and institutions regularly hold exhibitions on the subject.
Exploring the wider world of jewellery reveals a huge range of influences, including the Mughal Empire, the great Islamic state of the Indian subcontinent. This rich influence will be highlighted in the upcoming exhibition Bejewelled Treasures: the Al Thani Collection, which will showcase highlights from the fascinating collection of Sheikh Hamad bin Abdullah Al Thani at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.
There are also trade fairs, including in the Middle East. For example, in late November Bahrain will host Jewellery Arabia 2015, in collaboration with the Gemological Institute of America.
David Bennett is the division chairman of Sotheby’s Switzerland and worldwide chairman of Sotheby’s international jewellery division