Sales at this week's Christie's autumn auction series have been buoyed by cuts of up to 20 per cent in sellers' reserve prices, industry sources have revealed. Lower prices had helped ensure that 67 per cent of the lots offered thus far had found new homes, although Christie's hastened to add that while sales were down on the 80 per cent achieved earlier this year, many items had gone for well above their estimated prices. One industry source said the auction house had been in contact with sellers in recent weeks and had asked them to lower their reserve prices - prices below which they would not sell - by about 20 per cent. Christie's public relations manager Kate Swan Malin confirmed the company had been in discussions with sellers in the lead-up to the sales. 'We definitely were speaking with consignors about making changes to the reserves, but not by any specific amount,' Mrs Malin said. On the whole the clients had been receptive to the suggestion they drop their reserve prices, she said. However, the auctioneers were still quite upbeat about the market, despite the slump in sales. Mrs Malin said 85 per cent of the sold lots had met or exceeded their estimate, and 44 per cent of sales so far had exceeded their upper price estimate. 'So it's not all doom and gloom,' she said. 'I think a lot of people who have found that maybe other parts of their investment portfolio are troubled are looking to fine art and jewellery as alternatives. Also, the real collectors out there appreciate that some of these items may not be available any other time.' A case in point was yesterday's jewellery sale, which sold 71 per cent of the lots on offer and netted HK$260 million, which Mrs Malin said was the highest figure for any such sale around the world this season. 'So given the financial background, it's still rather encouraging,' she said. Jonathan Crockett, a Chinese fine art specialist with auction house Sotheby's, said it was normal for auctioneers faced with a declining market to suggest consignors adjust their reserves. 'Christie's is operating with the benefit of hindsight,' Mr Crockett said, referring to the lower than expected prices received at Sotheby's October sale. 'They would have already consigned a lot for sale at that stage but what they could do to help move sales along would be to contact the client to discuss lowering their estimates. 'Even though the catalogue [containing the original estimated prices] might already have been printed, they could have contacted them and suggested lowering the reserves. 'But I do not think many sellers would have agreed.'