Chinese Scrolls, 36-Carat Diamonds Dominate Hong Kong Sale

D-color diamonds
A pair of 35.77 and 35.61-carat D-color type IIa round diamonds. Source: Christie's Images Limited 2011 via Bloomberg

A pair of diamonds each weighing almost 36 carats and a set of Chinese scrolls led sales at a Christie’s International auction in Hong Kong last night.

Cui Ruzhuo’s eight-scroll sequence of lotus flowers painted this year in ink and color was the highest-selling lot, fetching HK$123.9 million ($15.9 million), or more than twice its HK$60 million top estimate. The unmounted D-color diamonds, sold separately for HK$64.5 million and HK$63.4 million to the same telephone bidder, were the highlights of a daylong HK$644.6 million jewelry sale, where 241 of 310 lots found buyers.

For most works, the cautious atmosphere seen earlier this week at wine and contemporary-art auctions again prevailed during yesterday’s bidding.

“In Beijing a credit crunch is on, and prices are coming to a more realistic level,” said Anthony Lin, a consultant on Chinese art. “That crazy insane level of top prices element is simmering down.”

The second-most-expensive work offered in the fine Chinese modern paintings sale failed to sell. It was an ink-and-color painting by 20th-century Chinese master Zhang Daqian with a presale estimate of HK$20 million to HK$40 million.

Another of his works with the same low estimate only found a buyer when bidding was reopened with a reduced reserve price. The painting, “Verdant Mountains and Layered Peaks After Rain,” sold for HK$21.9 million, including buyer’s premium.

Zhang Demand

The tepid bidding for Zhang’s works reflects a reversal in sentiment since June, when one of his paintings fetched a record $HK191 million at a Sotheby’s Hong Kong sale in which all 25 of his works sold.

Christie’s six-day sale ends today with sales of Chinese ceramics, jades and rhinoceros horns as well as watches. The London-based auction house is seeking to raise a total for the week of as much as HK$2.6 billion ($334 million). Christie’s raised HK$2.19 billion before today’s sales, according to the company’s website.

Today’s offerings include a 15th-century Ming dynasty blue-and-white porcelain moonflask and a Qianlong-era white jade vase and cover that both have high estimates of HK$35 million.

Buyers pay a commission on top of the hammer price that is 25 percent for the first HK$400,000, plus 20 percent up to HK$8 million, and 12 percent above that. The wine premium is 20 percent. Estimates reflect the price before the premium.

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