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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Necklace With 51 ‘Triple X’ Diamonds Could Fetch $1.8 Million At Bonhams

A diamond rivière necklace with 51 “Triple X-cut” rated diamonds will be the top lot at Bonham’s New York Fine Jewelry sale on June 22. Its estimate is $1.4 million to $1.8 million.

Triple X (also known as “Triple Ex”) is an informal designation, mostly within the trade, that means a diamond that has received excellent polish, symmetry and cut grades. Only round and round brilliant cut diamonds can receive this designation. 

Each diamond in the necklace is accompanied by a Gemological Institute of America report that stating it’s three excellence grades. The graduated line of 51 round brilliant-cut diamonds weighs more than 70 carats. They are joined together by a heart-shaped diamond clasp weighing 2.04 carats. The diamonds are mounted in platinum. 

Bonhams has been saying that buyers have shown a strong preference for colored diamonds and gems this year. Exemplifying this trend the auction is loaded with these colorful stones. Among the top colored lots are:

* A 3.56-carat cut-cornered, rectangular-cut fancy intense pink diamond on a ring with an estimate of $600,000 - $800,000, enhanced by a pavé-set diamond surround and mounted in 18k white and yellow gold;

* A 25-carat sapphire and diamond ring (est. $400,000 - $500,000) by M. Gerard, a famous French jewelry house known for its superior craftsmanship and superb gemstones. The richly colored crystal sapphire’s unusual octagonal cut makes this a very rare find. The sapphire is flanked by triangular-cut diamonds and is mounted in 18k gold. 

* A ring designed as a pavé-set diamond star with an oval modified brilliant-cut fancy deep blue diamond in the center, which weighs 0.71 carat (est. $250,000 - $350,000); 

* A 5.02-carat cut-cornered, square modified brilliant-cut fancy yellow diamond on a ring flanked by fancy-cut diamonds within a pavé-set diamond surround (est. $50,000 - $60,000).

* A fancy colored diamond and sapphire ring designed as a pavé-set diamond with a geometric plaque. The plaque centers a lozenge brilliant-cut light gray-blue colored diamond weighing 0.92 carat with acalibré-cut sapphire surround (est. $40,000 - $60,000)

The auction will begin held at 11 a.m. 

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Sunday, May 24, 2015

Couture Show Jewelry And Watch Preview

Irene Neuwirth one-of-a-kind colorful jewelry necklace made of a variety of gems

It’s Las Vegas Jewelry Week and this year my participation will be limited to three days so I decided to focus my attention to The Couture Show, the most exclusive of the many jewelry tradeshows being held in Las Vegas this week. The five-day event beginning May 28 is a showcase for major jewelry and watch brands, and designer and couture jewelers.

Lagos’s Keep Memory Alive Sterling Silver Signature Caviar Collection supports, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the research, management and treatment of memory disorders. Designs are inspired by the intricate curvature of Keep Memory Alive’s architectural masterpiece in Las Vegas, designed by world-renowned architect, Frank Gehry. The company’s founder, Steven Lagos, is a long time supporter of the organization

In recent years it has expanded its footprint internationally among exhibitors, buyers and press. More than 4,000 buyers are expected to view the offerings of more than 350 exhibitors at the Wynn Las Vegas, which include Roberto Coin, David Yurman, Pomellato, Lagos and Stephen Webster. Established jewelers exhibiting for the first time include Omi Privé, Gumuchian and London-based art jeweler, Completedworks

Omi Privé Opal and Diamond 3-Stone Ring augmented with sapphires and diamonds set in 18k yellow gold

In addition to jewelry, the show has been attracting more luxury watch brands. Expect this trend to continue as Couture recently announced that it is partnering with advising and consulting company, Kaiser Time Inc., to develop the watch category for the show. Among the watch brands exhibiting for the first time are Baume & Mercier, Hermes, Gucci and Tudor.

Gurhan Gold and Opal Pendant in 24k gold with irregular-shaped opals and round diamonds

In addition to Couture, there are no fewer than six other jewelry, gem and watch shows at hotels along “The Strip,” making up what has become informally known as “Las Vegas Jewelry Week.” The biggest is the JCK Show (May 26 – June 1), located at the Mandalay Bay Hotel & Conference Center, a jewelry tradeshow that provides a showcase for the entire breadth of jewelry available in the US, as well as jewelry making technology, machinery, jewelry packaging, and support services.

Hermès Cape Cod Zebra Pegasus Watch employed Grand Feu enameling for the miniature painting of the zebra and the cloisonné technique for the wings. The dial’s base is made of a 22k gold plate crafted into three different layers. Limited to four pieces

For estate and collectible jewelry and watches, there’s the Las Vegas Antique Jewelry & Watch Show (May 28 -31), the largest such event catering to those in the jewelry trade. AGTA GemFair, also at Mandalay Bay (May 28 –June), features gem dealers from around the world.

Stefan Hafner Jasmine Bracelet in white gold embellished with diamonds inspired by the inspired by the rich decoration of ancient Moroccan palaces, enveloped by the citrus scent of the royal gardens

The other tradeshows include American Craft Retailers Expo at South Point Hotel Casino & Spa (May 28 – 30), for American and Canadian artists, many just entering into the marketplace; the Gem & Lapidary Association show at the Mirage Resort & Casino Hotel (May 25 – 28); and the International Watch and Jewelry Guild Show (May 25 – 26).

Completedworks Pillar inspired by ruined architecture, the brand’s signature collection draws together the elegant, elongated, sometimes elaborate, architectural language of the classical column

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Temple St. Clair 18k Small Flower Necklace with Royal Blue Moonstone (61.92cts) and diamonds (0.90cts)

Ornella Iannuzzi Rock It! Pendant Cage with an opal bead inside an 18k yellow gold geometric cage

Moritz Glik’s Kaleidoscope combines tiny gold star motifs with his signature diamonds, shaking between two sapphire crystals

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Baume & Mercier Capeland Shelby Cobra Honors A Legendary American Racing Car

Capeland Shelby Cobra 18k Red Gold Flyback Chronograph

It’s a Swiss watch made for an iconic American racing car and its creator.

The Shelby Daytona Cobra status as an iconic racing car was sealed 50 years ago when it finished first in 11 out of 20 races to be crowned 1965 FIA GT champions. The small American car maker and its team of drivers beat the best-known and most-established car manufacturers in the racing world, including the nearly unbeatable, Ferrari team. The unlikely victory also established the car company’s founder and former champion driver, Carroll Shelby (January 11, 1923 – May 10, 2012), as the first individual to win the title as a driver, team manager and manufacturer.

Modern-day replica of the Shelby Cobra

Luxury Swiss watch brand Baume & Mercier honored the 50th anniversary of this achievement by creating the Capeland Shelby Cobra, modeled after the car that is now one of the most sought after collectibles in the racing world.

Each timepiece in the Capeland Shelby Cobra collection is designed to capture the spirit and power of the Cobra.

Capeland Shelby Cobra Steel Chronograph 

The dial of the watch is made in the Cobra’s livery, combining its classic “Guardsman Blue” racing color with transparent dual racing stripes. At the center of the design is the Cobra logo, forged into the seconds hand. The hours and minutes hands are in the shape of the Cobra’s steering wheel. The a sapphire crystal case back is engraved with the collection title and Carroll Shelby’s signature. The 44mm case is available in polished and satin-finished stainless steel or 18k red gold. There are two limited editions of this watch, both powered by Swiss-made La Joux-Perret automatic movements.

The caseback of the Capeland Shelby Cobra

The Capeland Shelby Cobra Steel Chronograph comes with a black alligator strap with red calfskin rubber-like lining, grey stitching and triple-folding clasp with security push-pieces. It is limited to 1,965 pieces.

The Capeland Shelby Cobra 18k Red Gold Flyback Chronograph, as the name of the watch implies, features a flyback function for the chronograph and comes in 18k gold. The black alligator strap is offset by an 18k red gold buckle, Cobra blue round-scale alligator lining and red stitching. Owners of this particular watch will also receive a book detailing the full history of the Cobra. It is limited to 98 pieces.

The timepieces will be available in June.

Alain Zimmermann, Baume & Mercier CEO, presents a Capeland Shelby Cobra to Bob Bondurant

The Baume & Mercier team, including Alain Zimmermann, Baume & Mercier CEO, and Rudy Chavez, president of Baume & Mercier North America, came to Las Vegas in March to unveil the watches at Shelby American headquarters during two days of events honoring the 50th anniversary of Shelby Daytona Cobra’s landmark victory. Among those being honored was Bob Bondurant, the most famous member of the Shelby American racing team, Peter Brock, the man who designed the Shelby Daytona Cobra, and Chuck Cantwell, Shelby project engineer during the time the iconic Shelby Daytona Cobra was built.

Alain Zimmermann, Baume & Mercier CEO, presents a Capeland Shelby Cobra to Peter Brock

Events included a tour of Shelby American headquarters where the company makes limited edition Shelby Mustang GTs in a collaboration with Ford that dates back to the Shelby Cobra days; and modern-day replicas of its famous vehicles, including the Shelby Cobra. In addition, several hours were spent at Spring Mountain Track, where people had a chance to ride a Shelby Cobra replica and Shelby Mustang GTs. 

Yours truly in the passenger seat at Spring Mountain Track

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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Omega and NASA Celebrates 45th Anniversary Of Apollo 13 and the Snoopy Award

From left: Astronaut Gene Cernan, George Clooney, Omega President and CEO Stephen Urquhart, Apollo 13 Flight Commander James Lovell and astronaut Thomas Stafford.

You might be asking yourself what does a watch brand have to do with Apollo 13? And is there actually a NASA award name after the Peanuts comic strip character, Snoopy?

The answer to the first question is, a lot; and the answer to the second question is, Yes.

It was only a 14-second moment but it was one of the most critical steps that turned a near-fatal mission into a human success story. Apollo 13, the aborted mission to the moon, has been popularized through the book, originally titled, “Lost Moon,” (Now called “Apollo 13”) co-written by Apollo 13 Flight Commander James A Lovell and author Jeffrey Kluger; followed by the blockbuster movie, “Apollo 13,” and by the millions of people around the world in 1970 who followed the exploits of the astronauts who successfully returned to earth in their crippled spacecraft.

However, outside of those deeply involved in watches, what isn’t widely known is the role the Omega Speedmaster chronograph played in helping to bring the astronauts home safely. The watch was used to time a 14-second maneuver that proved critical in returning the crew back to earth.

NASA and Omega celebrated the 45th anniversary of the life saving mission during a series of events in Houston on May 12 that culminated with a gala dinner attended by 300 people that featured Lovell, astronaut Thomas Stafford and Eugene Cernan, Omega President and CEO Stephen Urquhart, and film star and Omega ambassador, George Clooney. The company also released a 45th anniversary edition of the Omega Speedmaster Professional Apollo 13 Silver Snoopy Award chronograph, which is in recognition of the Silver Snoopy Award Omega received from NASA astronauts, “for outstanding achievements related to human flight safety or mission success.”

The Critical Maneuver 

Two days into the planned moon landing, an oxygen tank exploded crippling the Service Module, which provided vital functions to the Command Module occupied by the crew. After overcoming a number of hardships never experienced before in a space mission, Mission Control in Houston told the flight crew they were off course by roughly 60 to 80 nautical miles. In this case it meant they would be entering the earth’s atmosphere at an angle that would have bounced the spacecraft back into space with no chance of recovery.

It should be noted that the “spacecraft” they were using to return to earth was the Lunar Module, which was designed to do nothing more than land on the moon and return to the Command/Service Module in the moon’s obit before being discarded. Although no one actually says this, it appears the Lunar Module was actually towing the CSM back to the earth’s atmosphere (which they needed in order to return through the atmosphere). The LM was designed to keep two people alive for two days, not three people alive for more than four days, so in order to reserve the limited energy they shut down nearly all power, including heat and the cabin clock.

(Left) Apollo 13 Flight Commander James Lovell and astronaut Thomas Stafford

Lovell along with John L. "Jack" Swigert, Command Module pilot, and Fred W. Haise, Lunar Module pilot, executed a “maneuver,” to manually adjust the course of the craft. Mission Control determined that it would require a 14-second burn of fuel. Lovell had to guide the craft on course by using the earth’s horizon as his guide. Haise’s job was to ensure the LM didn’t drift sideways. Swigert timed the burn of the rockets. Since the clock on board didn’t work, he had to use the Omega Speedmaster chronograph. Needless to say the maneuver worked.

At a press conference on NASA Space Center Houston, Lovell described the maneuver.

“(It) was done without our normal navigation equipment. We used the earth as a backline. We could see the earth, we could see the daytime and darkness and that line in between we call it twilight or the terminator,” he said. “We had a crosshair on the window of the lunar module so we could superimpose our crosshair on the earth’s terminator and that positioned the engine of our lunar module so we can make the correct movement to get back into the proper course to make a safe landing back on earth.”

He continued, “We had to burn the engine. Have it on only for a certain length of time: 14 seconds…. We used the (Omega) watch that Jack had on his wrist and I had to control the spacecraft. Jack timed the burn on the engine to make that correction to get back home safely.”

The Silver Snoopy Award

For Omega’s contribution to the safe return of the crew, the company received the “Silver Snoopy Award.” It is a special honor awarded to NASA employees and contractors for outstanding achievements related to human flight safety or mission success. The award depicts Snoopy, a character from the Peanuts comic strip created by Charles M. Schulz, which was an unofficial mascot for NASA.

The Silver Snoopy Award Omega received 45 years ago on display at the 45th Anniversary dinner in Houston. Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco

Lt. Gen. Thomas Stafford, who flew on six space missions at NASA, explained at the press conference that the award was used as a motivational tool for employees and contractors. The comic strip was popular with NASA people.

“NASA asked Mr. Schultz if they could use a Snoopy to award people or groups who have made a significant contribution to the safety of a mission,” Stafford said. “He said he would be honored.”

The award itself is a simple sterling silver lapel pin flown during a NASA mission, a commendation letter and a signed, framed Silver Snoopy certificate.

Stafford said Omega deserved the award not only because of its use on Apollo 13 but because of its history with the space program.

“You baseline everything you do in space on time and in training we always used the Omega watch,” he said. “Jack Swigert timed it and Jim (Lovell turned on the main engine). It was all done with an Omega watch. Omega was a vital factor in getting them back. Because of that the omega corporation was awarded the Silver Snoopy.”

Omega and NASA, Fact Vs. Legend

There’s legend and myth mixed in with the reality of the Speedmaster’s relationship with NASA. The entire truth may never be totally revealed (despite those who claim to know the whole story) This explanation will come close.

The relationship officially started in 1965. In March of that year, it was on the wrists of Virgil “Gus” Grissom and John Young during their Gemini 3 mission. Three months later Edward H. White wore his Speedmaster on America's first spacewalk during the Gemini IV mission.

However, there were stories that astronauts wore their own personal Speedmasters as early as 1962. This is true according to Stafford, Omega documents and others at NASA. NASA astronauts Walter “Wally” Schirra and Leroy Gordon “Gordo” Cooper purchased their first flight-watches: the second generation Speedmaster model with the reference CK2998. These privately-owned chronographs were to be used on the upcoming Mercury program flights. And indeed, the very first Speedmaster to fly on a space mission was Schirra's own CK2998 during the Mercury-Atlas 8 (Sigma 7) mission.

How the Speedmaster became NASA’s official watch is also filled with legend. In 1964, Deke Slayton, NASA operations director, sent a directive for an official watch for NASA pilots. A young engineer named James Ragan was tasked with testing the watch.

The Omega celebration of the 45th Anniversary of the Apollo 13 Mission

The rumors are that Ragan, or someone from NASA went to local jewelers to buy watches. I sat next to Ragan (now retired) at the gala dinner and asked him about the story. He put the kibosh on that quickly. NASA is a government organization that has to go through a formal process to make purchases. The truth, he said, is he directed someone at NASA to send out a request for proposal to watch companies. It was a blind directive. Companies receiving the request did not know how the timepieces were going to be used.

“We had four bids. Out of those we selected three watches because the fourth one was too big. We had a Hamilton. We had a Rolex. And we had an Omega,” Ragan said. “One watch had to pass all the tests and we had 10 different tests and none of them were easy but some of them were worse than others.”

The watches received a combination of tests to see how they performed under a variety of conditions, including extreme heat and cold, high oxygen environments, high humidity, different variations in G-force conditions, and even for high decibel environments.

“Within the first two tests, both the Rolex and Hamilton failed. Period,” he said. “So all that was left was the Omega. We followed through on all the testing. It passed all the tests. It did gain a little bit and lose a little bit in the temperature extremes. But those could be adjusted so we didn’t see that as a failure.”

I asked why the Speedmaster performed so well. His scientific reply was: “It’s a tough made watch. We beat the devil out of it.”

Who Knew?

He said over the years he purchased 97 watches through the Gemini, Apollo, ASTP and SkyLab missions. They were used for training and on all missions, including on spacewalks and moonwalks.

At the press conference with the astronauts, Stephen Urquhart, Omega president and CEO, said the watch brand had no discussions with NASA. The company didn’t even know NASA was using their watch. He also emphasized the obvious that the Omega Speedmaster, first introduced in 1957, wasn’t designed for space travel. It was created to time race cars.

“There was never any discussion between Omega and NASA on the watch,” Urquhart said. “In fact, Omega did not know we were flying those until the picture of Ed White in 1965. That’s when we first saw it on his wrist.

The picture Urquhart is referring to is of astronaut Ed White on the first ever spacewalk in 1965, where he could be seen wearing the watch. Ragan said there was a reason for this secrecy.

“The story is true,” Ragan said. “They didn’t know because we didn’t want them to go build something special. Deke Slayton who directed this wanted an off-the-shelf watch.”

The only modification made to the watch by NASA was the addition of a large Velcro strap so it can be worn over the spacesuit.

While the Speedmaster for NASA remains a commercial watch, there have been a couple minor adjustments made over the year at NASA’s request, Ragan said.

“The first chronographs that NASA bought were model 6049 (USA designation),” Ragan said in a statement. “These were to be used for the Gemini program. I found during crew usage for training and flight that it was very easy to bend or break the chronograph function buttons on the side. The case did not provide any protection for them. I asked Omega to consider redesigning the case to provide a little recess to better protect these buttons. Omega willingly redesigned the case and this configuration became the new version of the chronograph. It has the exact same movement—just a different case. This model was designated 6126 (USA designation).  The model 6049 was used throughout Gemini and I started using the model 6126 model for Apollo and beyond.

The other adjustment allowed the astronauts to more easily manipulate the chronograph buttons while wearing their spacesuit gloves.

Omega Speedmaster Apollo 13 Silver Snoopy Award Chronograph

The Speedmaster professional watch created to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the difficult journey home for the Apollo 13 crew has all the markings of the mission and the award Omega received. Snoopy appears on both the dial and the caseback of the watch, whose black and white finished is inspired by the black-and-white comics in newspapers.

The white dial contrasts the black varnished Moonwatch-style hands and the polished black ceramic bezel with its Super-LumiNova tachymeter scale. Super-LumiNova is also on the central hour, minute and chronograph seconds hands.

Two inscriptions decorate the dial. Fourteen small squares between zero and 14 seconds on the dial come together to form a long comic strip, with the words “What could you do in 14 seconds?” written underneath.

At the center of the dial is the quote: “Failure is not an option,” spoken by actor Ed Harris who played Apollo 13 Flight Director Gene Kranz in the 1995 film about the historic mission, Apollo 13. A small image of a sleeping Snoopy painted on the dial with Super-LumiNova is positioned in the small seconds sub-dial at 9 o’clock.

The enameled caseback, with its 925 silver medallion, is partially crafted by hand and engraved with a depiction of Snoopy wearing a spacesuit and carrying the portable air conditioning unit that human astronauts are often pictured with when wearing their space gear. This same image of Snoopy is on the silver pin presented by astronauts to individuals or companies that have contributed to the success of the NASA missions.

The watch is powered with the caliber 1861. It is limited to 1,970 pieces. 

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Thursday, May 14, 2015

Chopard and de Grisogono Rock the Red Carpet at Cannes Film Festival

Julianne Moore in Chopard

Switzerland is known for its world renowned watch industry but there are a few companies that produce world class luxury jewelry as well. Two brands, Chopard and de Grisogono, sparkled during Tuesday’s opening night Red Carpet ceremony at the Cannes Film Festival. 

Chopard’s partnership with what is arguably the world’s most glamorous film festival has marked its 60th year, which includes creating the Palme d’Or trophy, the highest prize awarded at the Cannes Film Festival. The High Jewelry Red Carpet Collection, developed each year for the opening red carpet event, consists of 68 unique pieces this year. They were unveiled Tuesday, worn by world renowned actresses and models as well as Cannes officials. The jewels are designed by Caroline Scheufele, co-president of Chopard.

Meanwhile, de Grisogono and its highly charismatic founder and creative director, Fawaz Gruosi, always makes a mark at this event showcasing its highly creative designs. This year the company displayed white gold and diamonds accented by warm hues. 

The two brands best examples of its high jewelry pieces on the red carpet include: 

2015 Academy Award winner Julianne Moore in pear-shaped emerald earrings (52 carats) set with white diamonds in platinum from Chopard’s Red Carpet Collection and an octagonal step-cut emerald ring (13 carats) set in white diamond pavé‎ in 18k white gold (top photo).

2014 Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong’o wore Chopard pink quartz earrings (13 carats) with rubellites and white diamond set in 18-karat white gold, an amethyst ring with tanzanite, tsavorites and white diamonds set in 18k white gold; an aquamarine ring (5 carats) with amethyst, tanzanites; and white diamonds set in 18k white gold, all from Chopard’s Temptations Collection. She also wore a white diamond bead necklace (41 carats) set in 18k rose gold and a marquise-cut white diamond ring set in 18k white gold.

Fashion model Bar Refaeli wore de Grisogono cabochon-cut India earrings, Sensuale ring and the brand's iconic Allegra ring in gold, brown and creamy warm hues. She is pictured with Fawaz Gruosi, founder and creative director of the luxury jewelry brand.

Chopard ambassadress, Chinese actress Fan Bingbing in a pair of Chopard earrings featuring pear-shaped emeralds (25 carats) and white diamonds (24 carats) set in 18k yellow gold, a white diamond bracelet (29 carats) set in 18k white gold, an emerald-cut emerald ring (30 carats) set with white diamond pave in platinum and a round-cut white diamond ring set in 18k white gold.

Actress Natalie Portman wore de Grisogono diamonds, pairing the teardrop shape of Gocce earrings with the fan-shaped Jane ring and the Tubetto bangle 

French Actress Emmanuelle Beart wore a pair of Chopard white diamond hoop earrings (13 carats) set in 18k white gold, a white diamond bracelet (44 carats) set in 18k white gold and two ashoka-cut white diamond rings set in platinum.

Chinese actress Zhao Tao wore Chopard marquise-cut white diamond chandelier earrings (30 carats) set in 18k white gold.

Victoria’s secret Supermodel Karlie Kloss wore de Grisogono Sole earrings and a sculptural Onde ring

Model Doutzen Kroes wore a Chopard marquise-cut white diamond bracelet (8 carats) set in 18k Fairmined white gold and a marquise-cut white diamond ring set in 18k Fairmined white gold, both from Chopard’s Green Carpet Collection.

Indian actress Katrina Kaif wore Chopard white diamond drop earrings (8 carats) set in 18k white gold and a pear-shaped white diamond bracelet (37 carats) set in 18k white gold. 

Actress and model Liya Kebede adorned her Louis Vuitton silver dress with the de Grisogono Allegra ring and 1-metrer long sautoir necklace.

Member of the Jury, French actress Sophie Marceau wore three Chopard white diamond bead necklaces (totaling 270 carats) set in 18k white gold, a white diamond bracelet (33 carats) set in 18k white gold and a pair of white diamond stud earrings.

Member of the Jury, Spanish actress Rossy de Palma sparkled in a white diamond necklace, earring and ring suite (totaling 100 carats) set in 18k white gold.

Italian actress Isabella Rossellini wore Chopard ruby earrings (57 carats) set in 18k rose gold and a ruby ring (24 carats) set in 18k rose gold. 

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Regional Instability Causes 3% Drop in Global Gold Jewelry Demand

Emperatriz Maxi Earrings by Carrera y Carrera

The world continues to be more complicated and complex as it also becomes more interdependent. The World Gold Council’s Gold Demand Trends report for the first quarter of 2015 reflects this instability.

Global gold jewelry demand for the first quarter of 2015 declined 3 percent to 600.8 tons, primarily due to large swings in demand in regions throughout the world, but particularly in the world’s two largest gold jewelry markets: China and India.

The largest decline in gold jewelry demand in tons came from China, which fell by 10 percent year-over-year to 213.2 (a 23 ton decline), according to the World Gold Council’s quarterly report, Gold Demand Trends. This was offset by a 22 percent rise in demand in India to 150.8 tons (a 27-ton increase).

“The impact of these two key markets is illustrated by removing them from the global total,” the World Gold Council said in its report. “Jewelry demand excluding China grew 1 percent, year-on-year, while removing India from the total yields a 9 percent decline. The extent of this impact confirms the importance of both markets to global consumer demand.”

The WGC said the sharp increase in demand in India was more of a reflection of unusual weakness in the year-earlier period than any particular strength in the first quarter of 2015. Economic uncertainty and temporary government restrictions on the purchase of the precious metal restricted demand a year ago.

The story with China is somewhat similar in that first quarter 2015 demand was paired against a particularly robust first quarter of 2014. The WGC said the current decline in gold jewelry demand in China is due to three factors:

* Slowing GDP growth;
* Rallying stock markets; and
* Cautious outlook for gold prices.

“Against this background of factors, Chinese New Year—traditionally a popular time for buying and gifting gold jewelry—was relatively restrained,” WGC said.

Well-designed 18k gold is particularly appealing to the younger generation of Chinese, according to the report. In recent years, 24k “Chuk Kam” gold far outweighed the lower-karat segment, accounting for around 90 percent of the market at its peak, WGC said. Eighteen-karat gold now accounts for around 12 percent of the gold jewelry market in tonnage terms.

“Despite the year-on-year decline in Q1, the longer-term rising trend remains firmly intact,” the WGC said.

Jewelry demand in Hong Kong was down 26 percent as it was harder hit by the Chinese government’s anti-corruption campaign than the mainland. The number of tourists visiting from the mainland China jumped during the Chinese New Year holiday in February. However, it was followed by a 10 percent decline in March on tension between Hong Kong and the Chinese government. Measures to limit the number of trips Shenzhen residents can make to Hong Kong were introduced in April, which may further dampen demand in the second quarter, the WGC said.

In the US, gold jewelry demand experienced its third consecutive year-over-year increase in the first quarter as what the WGC describes as a “fragile recovery” continues with household wealth and economic growth. This year the increase in first quarter gold jewelry demand was at 4 percent to 22.4 tons.

Higher carat jewelry remains popular the US. “However, (consumers) were cautious in their approach to spending and the trade views the prospects for the remainder of the year with guarded optimism,” the WGC said.

It adds that “conservative consumer attitudes towards spending and a general lack of innovation in the design and market are potential headwinds.”

The UK market continues to mirror US trends, WGC said, where demand there also grew by 4 percent. However, European markets as a whole were weaker where demand dipped by 2 percent to 12.5 tons “amid stronger euro prices and mixed economic signals.”

In the Middle Eastern markets, domestic unrest, particular in Egypt, has had an impact on gold jewelry demand. In Egypt, demand fell by 31 percent to its lowest level since the second quarter of 2012. The entire region, with the exception of Saudi Arabia (which grew by 5 percent), saw varying year-over-year declines that on average were at 8 percent. Russia reported the largest drop in gold jewelry demand at 40 percent. Turkey saw a 28 percent decline in demand.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Kashmir Sapphire Sets Record, Jackie O’s Van Cleef Rubies Fetch $302,000, Spanish Royal Brooch Failed To Sell

Van Cleef & Arpels ruby and diamond ear pendants owned by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

It was a busy evening at at Christie’s Geneva Magnificent Jewels sale held Wednesday. The auction of 341 lots were led by statement diamonds, gems with exceptional origins and natural pearls. However, there were downsides as an historically significant and highly touted Spanish royal brooch was among the 23 percent of lots that did not sell.  

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis ruby ring

One of the most anticipated lots in the sale was Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ ruby ear clips by Van Cleef & Arpels and a ruby ring. The items sold as a set for $301,959. The jewels were a wedding gift from Aristotle Onassis in 1968. Each ear pendant top is designed as an openwork pavé-set diamond leaf, suspending a detachable cabochon ruby and brilliant-cut diamond cluster pendant. The ring is centered by a heart-shaped cabochon ruby within a brilliant-cut diamond surround to the pavé-set diamond shoulder.

The top lot of the sale was a 5.18-carat rectangular-cut Fancy Vivid Pink diamond on a ring (pictured above) that sold for just over $10.7 million (more than $2 million per carat). The gem was set in gold within an oval-shaped diamond surround. This was followed by a 55.52-carat pear shaped D-color, Flawless diamond that sold for just over $9 million. 

Colored gems of exceptional origins continue to show its strength. A cushion-shaped Kashmir sapphire ring of 35.09 carats (pictured above) sold for a world auction record price of $7.35 million ($209,689 per carat). A cushion-shaped Burmese ruby ring of 30.20 carats sold for $3.4 million ($112,850 per carat). 

A late 19th century single-strand natural pearl necklace, measuring approximately 11.1 to 7.8 mm, sold for more than $3.8 million. 

Historic Maria Christina Royal Devant-de-Corsage brooch that failed to sell

At the other end of the spectrum, the historically significant Maria Christina Royal Devant-de-Corsage brooch was pulled from the auction. It had an estimate of $1.5 to $2 million. The brooch was presented as a wedding gift in November 1879 from King Alfonso XII of Spain to his wife, the Archduchess Maria Christina of Austria, soon to be Queen Consort and then Queen Regent of Spain. The brooch, which was highly touted by Christie’s before the sale, is part of the collection belonging to Baroness Thyssen-Bornemizsa.

The auction of 341 lots realized more than $97.5 million, with 77 percent of items sold by lot and 81 percent sold by value. 

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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

25-Carat Ruby Ring By Cartier Fetches World Auction Record $30.4 Million

Additional reporting by Gretchen Friedrich, Jewelry News Network social media manager

The 25.59-carat “Sunrise Ruby” by Cartier smashes estimates to fetch $30.38 million, a world record for a price of a ruby at auction. It was the surprising top lot Sotheby’s Geneva Magnificent Jewels and Noble Jewels Sale held Tuesday at the Hôtel Beau-Rivage. 

Known as the “Sunrise Ruby,” it’s described as a “unique treasure of nature” by the Swiss Gemmological Institute. The ruby didn’t receive any heat treatment and the color is described by that famous auction moniker for exceptional rubies, “pigeon’s blood” red: the rarest and most sought-after of hues. 

The ruby was the high point in a jewelry auction that saw many highs, taking in approximately $134 million, with 93.5 percent of the 484 lots sold. The top ten results were a mix of colored gems and diamonds along with white diamonds, natural pearls and three other Cartier jewels. 

Going into the auction, the top lot was expected to be the “Historic Pink,”  (pictured above) an 8.72-carat Fancy Vivid Pink diamond that the auction house described as “extremely rare and highly important.” This turned out to be the second highest lot of the sale, fetching $16 million, within its estimate. The jewel is believed to have been part of the collection of Princess Mathilde, the niece of Napoleon Bonaparte. The stone, which has VS2 clarity, is also distinguished by its classic non-modified cushion cut, unusual in a pink diamond, Sotheby’s said. 

A custom-made diamond necklace of more than 190 carats by Cartier (pictured above) sold for $7.25 million. The piece was designed as a cascade of diamonds, the front accented with a floral motif and suspending a fringe of nine pear-shaped stones.

Despite an auction season that has had its share of high and lows, one category of jewelry that continues to see consistently higher prices are natural pearls. This auction didn’t disappoint as three pearl jewels were among the top 10 lots.

The first was a natural pearl and diamond necklace that has at least least some Cartier lineage (signed clasp and case stamp) that sold for $7 million (pictured above), well above its high estimate. It is composed of two graduated strands of 78 natural pearls on a clasp set with a marquise-shaped diamond weighing 4.39 carats.

In addition, a single strand necklace composed of a graduated row of natural pearls measuring from 7.95 to 12.40mm, on a barrel clasp set with brilliant-cut diamonds sold for $3.8 million, totally obliterating its high estimate of approximately $527,000.

The other Cartier pieces that sparkled at the auction were a brooch set with a 30.23-carat Kashmir sapphire that sold for $6.1 million; and sapphire and diamond earrings of the same design made with two Burmese Mogok sapphires of 15.77 and 16.90 carats. This sold for $3.43 million, well above its high estimate.

The other top lots are as follows:

* A 32-carat colorless diamond ring sold for more than $4 million. It was one of two colorless diamonds among the top 10 lots.

* The other was a pair of earrings each suspending a cushion-shaped diamond weighing 10.02 and 10.03 carats, from a line of single-cut diamonds, which sold for $3.2 million.

* Rounding out the top 10 was a natural pearl and diamond ear clips that sold for $3.2 million.

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Sunday, May 10, 2015

JNA Awards Names Judges

(From left) James Courage, Albert Cheng, Lin Qiang, Nirupa Bhatt and Yasukazu Suwa

The JNA Awards has named its judges for the annual competition and they are all leaders in the international jewelry industry. Three judges have been on the panel since the event’s launch in 2012. They are James Courage, chairman of the Responsible Jewellery Council; Albert Cheng, managing director of the World Gold Council, Far East; and Lin Qiang, president and managing director of the Shanghai Diamond Exchange. Nirupa Bhatt, managing director of GIA India and the Middle East. Joining them this year for the first time is Yasukazu Suwa, chairman of Suwa & Son, Inc.

The JNA Awards honors companies and individuals that have demonstrated excellence and innovation in the jewelry and gemstone industry, with a focus on their accomplishments in the Asian region. It is organized by Jewellery News Asia, the most influential jewelry trade magazine in Asia.

“We are truly grateful to have such a distinguished group of experts on this year’s judging panel. We look forward to working with them in recognizing and identifying unique business models, innovative ideas and exceptional visions,” said Letitia Chow, founder of JNA and director of Business Development – Jewellery Group at UBM Asia.

The JNA Awards will culminate with a ceremony and gala dinner on September 20 at the Regal Airport Hotel Hong Kong, which will be held during the September Hong Kong Jewellery & Gem Fair 2015. 

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