Antiques & Collectibles

Topping Christie’s Magnificent Jewels Auction, this 50.1-carat rectangular-cut diamond ring sold for $8.4 million.
Topping Christie’s Magnificent Jewels Auction, this 50.1-carat rectangular-cut diamond ring sold for $8.4 million.

Despite the fact that many folks have had to keep a sharp eye on their budgets when holiday shopping in this uncertain economy, the demand by some for diamonds and other precious stones sent prices soaring at auctions this month.

The 35 pieces of jewelry from the collections of the late Estee Lauder, founder of the cosmetics empire that bears her name, and of her late daughter-in-law Evelyn H. Lauder sold at Sotheby’s Magnificent Jewels Auction for $22,248,250, which was well above the high estimate of $18 million. The jewelry was sold to benefit The Breast Cancer Foundation, founded by Evelyn Lauder.

The top seller was Evelyn Lauder’s 6.54-carat fancy intense pink diamond ring, which after competition among six bidders sold to the English jeweler Laurence Graff for $8.6 million, more than doubling the low of its $4 million-$5 million estimate.


The 47.14-carat heart-shaped fancy intense yellow diamond, worn as a ring by the Duchess of Windsor and which Estee Lauder had mounted as a pendant necklace, sold to an Asian private for $2,546,500 (its estimate was $1.5 million-$2 million).

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Also sold at Sotheby’s auction was the jewelry collection of Mrs. Charles Wrightsman, the philanthropist, for whom, with her late husband, the Wrightsman Galleries of French Decorative Arts at the Metropolitan Museum of Art are named.

The auction, which brought $15,541,118, well in excess of its
$9 million high estimate, was topped by a circa 1910 natural pearl and diamond corsage that sold for $2,042,500 (estimate $800,000-$1.2 million). A rare natural gray pearl and diamond brooch set an auction record for a single natural gray pearl when it sold for $1,874,500, more than tripling its $600,000 high estimate.

The three collections grossed $64.8 million, the highest total ever for a day of jewelry sales at Sotheby’s New York.

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At Christie’s auction of ancient jewelry, a suite of four gold jewels, each embellished with emeralds, sapphires, garnets, and pearls, and dating from around the sixth or seventh century AD, sold for $242,500, and a circa fifth century BC 15-inch-wide Scythian gold torque sold for $212,500.

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A 50.1-carat rectangular-cut diamond ring which was purchased in 2005 at Christie’s for $4.2 million by the jeweler Laurence Graff was once again purchased by him, this time for $8.4 million at Christie’s December Magnificent Jewels Auction.

It demonstrates “the increasing strength and stability of the global diamond market,” said Rahul Kadakia, head of jewelry for Christie’s Americas and Switzerland.

This month’s sale, which totaled $32.5 million, set two new world auction records. A per-carat record for a Kashmir sapphire was set when an 8.91-carat sapphire sold for $1,370,500 or $154,000 per carat, and a 3.15-carat fancy reddish-orange diamond set a record for the largest reddish-orange diamond ever graded at the Gemological Institute of America when it sold for $2,098,500.


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The top seller at Skinner’s Fine Jewelry Auction this month was a double-strand jadeite bead necklace that brought $348,000, more than quadrupling the high of its $60,000-$80,000 estimate.

However, nine of the other top 10 pieces featured diamonds ranging from an Art Deco long chain necklace to an Art Deco bracelet. The necklace bezel-set with 61 marquise and 61 old European-cut diamonds sold for $162,000 against a $40,000-$60,000 estimate and the bracelet set with old European-cut, baguette-cut, and single-cut diamonds weighing about 30 carats sold for $37,200 against a $3,000-$5,000 estimate.

The 15 solitaires in the sale ranged from a square-cut 4.08-carat diamond ($60,000 against $35,000-$45,000) to a 1-carat old European-cut diamond ($2,337 against $1,500-$2,500).

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Four works by Alexander Calder (1898-1976), the American artist who was prolific in many media, were the top sellers at Grogan & Co.’s December Auction.

Calder, the inventor of the mobile, a sculpture of light, free-flowing parts, also painted, and was a printmaker and jewelry maker. The four works, all purchased by the same phone bidder, were gouache paintings and jewelry.

The two 1973 gouaches were gifts to his Roxbury, Conn., neighbors William and Virginia Chess. “Red, Blue, and Yellow Man,” which he inscribed “To Virginia” and “Skeleton Drinking Wine,” inscribed “To Wm. Chess,” sold for $36,580 and $35,400, respectively.

The two pieces of jewelry were hand-hammered silver brooches, one with initials ($11,800), the other in a heart shape ($10,030).

Also from the Chess collection was a 19th-century molded copper three-dimensional weather vane attributed to Cushing & White of Waltham that sold for $5,195.

The other top-selling paintings included “Winter Trail” ($16,260) by the Czech artist Jaroslav Vesin (1860-1915) and “Boulevard de la Madeleine” ($14,160) by the French artist Édouard Cortès (1882-1969).

A 19th-century 5-piece bedroom suite attributed to the Herter Brothers of New York ($22,420) and an Art & Crafts tall chest of drawers by Gustav Stickley ($6,490) were among the furniture highlights.

Seaforms, a set of four blown glass works by Dale Chihuly (estimate $10,000-$20,000) failed to sell, but a 22-inch glass vessel (estimate $5,000-$10,000) by William Morris, who early in his career was a gaffer for Chihuly, fetched $2,950.

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A 1989 Rolls-Royce is among the offerings at Kaminski Auctions’ Annual New Year’s Auction Saturday at
10 a.m. at its Beverly gallery, which will also feature collections of African art, jewelry, watches, and postcards. It will be followed on Sunday by a
10 a.m. auction launching a Décor series of furnishings for the home, including furniture, rugs, fine art and decorative arts.

Virginia Bohlin can be reached at