With rapid bidding from competing buyers, tense drama and unexpected outcomes, an auction can be a very entertaining experience to watch.
But more than just fun to witness, it’s also a place where you might get yourself a great deal on items you won’t find anywhere else.
Of course, auctions usually sell previously-owned jewellery, but that don’t let that detract you from their beauty and value. And no, you do not necessarily have to pay record-breaking prices – while there will be those that will make the headlines, there are also thousands of items available at relatively reasonable prices. There is also the occasional bargains if bids are low on those items.
Savvy buyers will regularly browse through the catalogues of the main auction houses and identify the items they want.
The key to getting a good price for what you want is patience: Stick to the bid you are willing to make and don’t get carried away.
Be willing to walk away from the bidding if the price goes above what you want. Unless the item is very rare, you can always find another similar one at another auction.
For purposes of discussion, one of the biggest auction sites online by far is eBay. One can find good prices there, sometimes as attractive as half the retail price. Many Sellers often include a “Or Best Offer”option, which allows potential buyers to make an offer to buy the item directly instead of bidding.
Some people are wary of buying from an unknown seller online, and these are the buyer protection safeguards implemented by eBay:
- Sellers are all rated by their buyers. Any seller with as much as a single unresolved complaint will have lower ratings, and will find it hard to attract bidders.
- The site has a dispute resolution protocol, and a money-back guarantee if the item is not as described in the auction; is fraudulent, faulty or fake.
One of the site’s main draws is that the buyer pays no commission; the seller bears the charges.
Real-life auction companies are the reverse – where commissions are paid by the buyer – so the buyer actually enjoys significant savings when buying online.
One of my favourite sources for top-notch jewellery and watches is the world-renown Sotheby’s auctions.
This venerable auction house attracts the world’s best high-end jewels and gems and has, traditionally been the first choice for auctions of the prized possessions of the rich, royal and famous. But. Sotheby’s also auctions thousands of items from private collections that don’t attract media attention, which can be very good deals.
Two of their most notable jewellery auctions take place in Geneva and New York, and there you’ll find some of the most eye-popping, mouth-watering baubles, bangles and bling.
I visited the preview of these two auctions that was held in Singapore, and here are some of my favourite fantasy pieces of jewellery and gems.
You don’t see necklaces as extravagant as this anymore. See it as worn, here or click image.
It features a stunning array of fancy intense yellow and white diamonds surrounding a huge 102.50 carat cushion-shaped fancy intense yellow diamond in the centre.
US$3.5 – $5.5 million
Another stunning piece from the preview included this Van Cleef & Arpel’s most iconic jewellery creations: the Zip necklace.
The two sides of the necklace meet and can be zipped up and down like a zipper. The origins of this design began in 1938, when Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor, suggested the idea of a necklace that could be zipped open and closed to Van Cleef & Arpels’ artistic director, Renée Puissant.
It was an innovative idea but turning the concept into reality was another thing altogether. The renowned jewellery maison worked on this and took several years before perfecting it and presenting it to the public in 1951.
The design would go on to be one of the most prestigious icons of the brand.
Looking like delicious candy drops, this Bulgari necklace is made up of oval, pear-shaped and circular-cut pink, yellow, purple and blue sapphires, highlighted with circular-cut and baguette diamonds.
The hinges are embellished with cabochon rubies.
The lot includes the necklace and matching pair of ear clips.
This diamond and emerald Cartier necklace from the 1930s is a gorgeous example of the Art Deco design of that era.
Two briolette-cut emeralds are the centrepiece in front.
Cartier “Tutti Frutti” gem and diamond bracelet, circa 1935.
This iconic art-deco design bracelet is made with rows of sapphire beads and a bejewelled clasp set with carved and cabochon emeralds, cabochon sapphires, rubies and amethysts, square, circular and single-cut diamonds.
Estimated: US$60,000 – $90,000
Aside from jewellery, you can also find a wide array of loose gemstones and diamonds at auctions.
These range from modest to humongous sizes and in every possible colour.
These two diamonds, pictured, will go on the auction block in Geneva on 15 November and they don’t get much larger than these!
Both are fancy intense yellow in colour, one being a 102.54 carat cushion cut and the other a 82.47 carat pear cut.
Size aside, their provenance or history is just as special: Known as the Donnersmarck Diamonds, they were once owned by the Countess Guido Henckel von Donnersmarck of the Austro-German noble family, in the 19th Century.
Known as the Raj Pink, it was discovered in South Africa in 2015 and underwent exacting cutting and polishing to transform it from a lumpy rough into this glittering, fiery jewel.
It’s so special that the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) issued a special report in addition to its regular grading, stating “For a diamond to display strong, unmodified pink colour like that observed in the Raj Pink is rare, particularly so at a considerable weight…”
Blue diamonds are among the rarest colours and those rated vivid are the rarest of the rare.
Made by the legendary Moussaieff jewellers, this ring features a circle of pink diamonds around the blue.