Phillips Auction House Sees Rising Demand For High Jewellery In Asia

Phillips auction house plans to stage jewellery auctions almost every month this year in response to high demand from jewellery connoisseurs, writes UK-based journalist and Editor of Jewellery Outlook, David Brough.

The high-value jewellery, diamonds and gemstones market is set to grow in Asia in 2022, continuing a trend from last year, buoyed by a new generation of digitally savvy buyers, a senior executive with Phillips auction house said.

“The classic European and American markets are still strong, but we do see indeed a higher demand in Asia,” Benoit Repellin, Phillips’ newly appointed Head of Jewellery, Europe and Middle East, told Solitaire.

Benoit Repellin

“More and more collectors are confident to go through (the) auction (route) to find the pieces they are looking for. And we also see a new generation interested in the jewellery market, the design, and the gems themselves.”

The jewellery market showed incredible strength in 2021 with Phillips seeing a 72% increase in sales from pre-pandemic levels, Benoit said.

“We’re confident the momentum will continue into 2022,” he said. “Collectors are driven by their passion and are willing to do whatever it takes to acquire rare pieces.”

Some jewellery analysts believe that the current period of rising inflation may enhance the appeal of collectible investments, such as exquisite items of high jewellery.

Jewels which are characteristic of a certain period, with an iconic design, signed pieces or jewels with important provenance reach very high prices, Benoit said.

“Art Deco remains a very sought-after era, but we see more and more jewellery collectors who view jewellery as a collecting category, the same way as one would build an art collection,” he said.

“So these clients want to get pieces that best illustrate each era, each jewellery maison, iconic and historic pieces. So as long as a jewel is characteristic of its period, if it bears the signature of an important jewellery house or a famous designer, there will be some competition at auction.” 

Exceptional gemstones are always sought-after, Benoit said.

“Some clients see gems as an investment too,” he added. “If this is the case, they would go for the best quality of each category: unheated stones, pigeon-blood Burmese rubies, Kashmir, Burmese, Ceylon sapphires, royal blue colour, Colombian emeralds with no clarity modification or minor oil.”

Benoit added, “Colourless diamonds are going up and we are also seeing a strong demand for old-cut stones.

“We sold a 20.27-carat, step-cut, D, Flawless Type IIa diamond for US$ 2,048,640 (over US$ 101,000 per carat) in Hong Kong in November. 

“Coloured diamonds also always reach high prices and attract connoisseurs.”

Phillips’ clients were becoming more familiar and confident buying stones from other origins than the “classic” ones, Benoit said. 

“We set a world auction record price per carat for a Zambian emerald with an 8.63-carat stone selling for US$ 210,160, that is around US$ 24,000 per carat last November in Hong Kong,” he added.

“Thai, Mozambique rubies, and Madagascan sapphires have also started to make their appearance at auction, after being used by jewellery houses for years.”

Phillips will stage jewellery auctions almost every month this year.

“We have an online sale every month, alternating between Hong Kong and New York, and our main live auctions at the end of May and end of November in Hong Kong, and early June and early December in New York,” Benoit said.

Phillips’ jewellery department is growing and has proven to be able to achieve very high results in a competitive market. 

“Our results of last year, and especially our autumn seasons with the Jewels and Jadeite sale, the Sensational Jewels from a Prominent Middle Eastern Collector, and the collection of Zambian emeralds, showed that the market is very receptive to our sales and that clients trust Phillips to sell or buy important pieces,” Benoit said.

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