True collectors clamour to see rare pieces go under hammer

PUBLISHED : Monday, 22 November, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 22 November, 2010, 12:00am

High-end jewellery houses may draw inspiration from vintage designs or even recreate classic pieces from a bygone era, but for the true collector, nothing can beat the offering of auction houses, that showcase one-of-a-kind pieces with history, age, rarity and provenance.

'Our clients come to us when looking for a truly magnificent piece of jewellery - something they can't find at retail,' explains Vickie Sek, head of jewellery at Christie's Hong Kong, noting that signed pieces from the likes of Boucheron, Bulgari, Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, and Harry Winston are popular because they offer a combination of rarity, quality and exclusivity.

'Top quality gemstones, including the rarest colourless and coloured diamonds, coloured stones and natural pearls, are always sought after. Clients also come to us for rare period pieces that you cannot always find in the market, but which are very desirable,' she adds. Though brands such as Cartier have revived old iconic designs; for example, its famous bejewelled panther that has been used on brooches, rings, bracelets and even extended to watches in recent years, and its classic Trinity rings, the first three-band ring with all three bands in different types of gold, first made in 1925; if made today, they have neither the historical value nor rarity collectors look for at auctions.

For collectors, auctions provide an opportunity to source unique pieces. Christie's auction this month was a case in point with the auction house featuring a rare and perfect 14.23-carat fancy intense pink diamond. 'If, the day after the auction, the underbidder were to come to us and ask us to source another stone just like it, we wouldn't be able to. It is that rare and the sale marks a singular opportunity for investors,' Sek explains.

The appetite for jewellery auctions has grown significantly in Hong Kong and the mainland, with the city's importance as a major international centre for the sale of the world's finest jewels equal to that of New York and Geneva, Sek says.

With disposable income growing at a fast rate, the auction house has noted a shift in activity from private collectors, with men and women becoming some of Christie's most important buyers, Sek adds.

'Auctions provide an easy, efficient, transparent and exciting way to buy jewellery. It's not all million-dollar jewels. At each sale we offer a range across a broad spectrum of price points and often include a section of lots with no minimum bid required to sell the piece.'