A ruby and diamond ring sold for a record $6.6 million last night at a charity auction of jewels owned by the Brazilian-born billionaire Lily Safra.
The Geneva event raised 35.1 million Swiss francs ($37.5 million), about double the presale lower estimate, as collectors bought gems including 18 pieces by JAR, the largest private group of items by the Parisian maker offered at auction.
Safra’s ring, made by Chaumet, featured a cushion-shaped red stone weighing 32.08 carats. It fetched 6.2 million francs, beating an estimate of 2.8 million francs to 4.6 million francs. The price was a record for a ruby sold at auction, Christie’s International said.
London-based Safra was offering 70 lots of her jewelry, dating from the 1970s to the present day, in a sale conducted by Christie’s at the Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues.
The most expensive JAR piece was a ruby and diamond Camellia flower brooch that was created for Safra in 2003. Pave-set with rubies weighing 173.09 carats, it fetched 4 million francs against an estimate of as much as 1.4 million francs.
All 70 lots found buyers, with 10.6 million francs contributed by the JAR group.
Other standout prices included 4.9 million francs for a pair of diamond ear clips, each pear-shaped stone weighing more than 19 carats, and 4.7 million francs for a diamond ring with a rectangular-cut stone weighing about 34.05 carats.
Proceeds from the “Jewels for Hope” auction will be donated to 20 different charitable institutions, said Christie’s. The Elton John AIDS Foundation (Worldwide), Henry Street Settlement, New York and Le Ballet de l’Opera National de Paris will be among the beneficiaries.
Safra is the widow of the Lebanese banker Edmond J. Safra, who died in a fire in his Monaco apartment in 1999. She has a net worth of $1.2 billion, according to Forbes’s March 2012 listing of the world’s wealthiest individuals, and has headed the philanthropic foundation bearing her late husband’s name since 2000.
As well as being a philanthropist, Safra is also a prominent art collector. She paid a record 65 million pounds (then $103.4 million) for Alberto Giacometti’s 1961 bronze sculpture “Walking Man I” at Sotheby’s (BID), London, in February 2010, dealers said. She donated Gerhard Richter’s painting “Abstraktes Bild 849-3 (1997)” to the Israel Museum, the Jerusalem-based institution said in January. The Richter had been bought for $20.8 million at a Sotheby’s auction in New York in November 2011.
Today, Sotheby’s Geneva sold the Beau Sancy diamond for 9 million francs. Weighing 34.98 carats, the modified pear double rose-cut stone was worn by Marie de Medici in her crown at her coronation as Queen Consort of Henri IV of France in 1610.
It was owned by Prince Georg Friedrich of Prussia, a descendant of Kaiser Wilhelm II, Sotheby’s said. The Royal House of Prussia acquired the diamond in the 18th century.
Sotheby’s had valued the gem at $2 million to $4 million and said it was sold to one of four telephone bidders. There was one other bidder in the room.
“The downturn in some ways persuaded some groups of buyers it might be an idea to have something tangible,” said David Bennett, head of Sotheby’s jewelry department in Europe and the Middle East. He said the market for jewelry was still strong.
Earlier in the day in Geneva, a 1774 bottle of “Vin Jaune” from the Jura region of France sold to an online bidder for 46,000 francs at a Christie’s wine auction.
The bottle was described as the oldest offered by the London-based auction house and had been valued at 40,000 francs to 50,000 francs. The event raised 2.7 million francs, with 91 percent of the lots finding buyers.
The most expensive was a case of Chateau Mouton-Rothschild’s prized 1945 “Victory” vintage, which raised 161,000 francs against an upper estimate of 85,000 francs.
(Scott Reyburn writes about the art market for Muse, the arts and culture section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)
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