Antiques Roadshow
Tatler Hong Kong|September 2020
Collectors in Asia are driving antique and period jewellery auction prices skywards
Annie Darling

At July’s Phillips Jewels and Jadeite sale in Hong Kong, an exceptional 12.55-carat diamond ring, circa 1953, went under the hammer for an eye-popping US$1.1 million. Designed by Harry Winston with an enormous centre stone and clean-cut silhouette, the design epitomised the luxury and optimism of the post-war era. And at a Sotheby’s auction last year, an art deco emerald- and diamond-set necklace made for Hélène Beaumont, an American socialite and close friend of Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor, sold for nearly US$3.6 million to an Asian collector—more than twice what it fetched in 1994.

These sales are indicative of the buoyant market for high-quality period pieces, as well as art deco’s rising popularity in Asia. “There is certainly an increased interest in antique and period jewels in Asia compared to 15 years ago,” says Jean Ghika, global head of jewellery at Bonhams auction house. “There is an understanding and appreciation of these older pieces and the fact that many come with history, are unique or are produced in limited numbers.” The tastes of Asian buyers are evolving from an initial preference for designs with white diamonds and green imperial jadeite to an increased interest in deep-rooted craftsmanship and lesser-known top-grade gemstones.

“Although there is some interest in 19th-century pieces, particularly naturalistic pieces that depict flora and fauna, there is perhaps greater interest in pieces from the first quarter of the 20th century, particularly the art deco period,” says Ghika. “There is a timeless appeal to this era of jewellery design that resonates with collectors. Pieces by famous French and Italian jewellery houses like Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Bulgari and Buccellati are particularly popular.”

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