|SAPPHIRES SOAR AS THEY BECOME THE
MUST-HAVE GEM FOR 2016
DIAMONDS may be forever... but sapphires are soaring, at least
when it comes to marking an engagement for increasing numbers of
couples, according to Bonhams.
The international auction house says a resurgence of interest in
colored stones has seen more and more couples choosing sapphires to
affirm their commitment.
While diamonds are seen by many couples as the time-honoured way
of announcing their commitment, in fact they are a relatively recent
custom compared to sapphires.
Our modern-day love for "a girl's best friend" is
largely the result of a highly successful marketing campaign by De
Beers in the 1930s and 1940s.
But Bonhams says many clients are looking for something a little
bit different when it comes to the choice of gemstone for their
While classic diamonds remain popular, the leading auctioneer is
reporting a growing trend for people choosing colored 'statement
stones' like sapphires, rubies and emeralds.
Sapphires come in a wide variety of colors - including pink,
yellow and padparadscha (a rare pinkinsh orange color) – and these
hold a great appeal for serious jewelry collectors and investors.
That means the stones are not only holding but increasing their
value, making them an appealing buy in an otherwise increasingly
volatile financial market.
As ever, some of the interest is said to be the result of
trend-setting celebrities leading the way.
Hollywood actor Javier Bardem presented a three carat sapphire
ring to actress Penelope Cruz to mark their engagement and Victoria
Beckham has added a large oval cut sapphire to her collection of
engagement rings. Actresses Tina Fey and Sofia Vergara both sparkled
in sapphires on the red carpet at this year's Oscars ceremony
Jean Ghika, Head of jewelry in the UK and Europe at Bonhams,
said: "Traditionally, sapphires symbolize truth, sincerity and
faithfulness – so they make the perfect ingredients for an
"Kings and queens from Ancient Greece and Rome wore
sapphires to protect them from harm and envy, and they have enjoyed
a reputation as one of the finest gems until the present day.
"Our market data suggests more and more of our clients are
opting for colored 'statement stones' like sapphires, emeralds and
rubies in their jewellery."
Jean Ghika continues: "While the market will always be there
for diamonds, our global clients are interested in seeing more
pieces with color and adding sapphires into their jewelry
"As well as newly engaged couples, we are seeing a lot of
independently wealthy women also choosing sapphires because they
want something different and more of a statement gem in their ring
compared to a classic diamond."
Part of the growing interest in colored stones is due to the
renewed supply of material, and also rejuvenated mining activities
in traditional areas. While the older material typically achieves
the higher prices at auction, Bonhams reports the price for new
material is also increasing as customers recognize supplies are
Bonhams is seeing superb examples of colored stones coming on to
the market due to the rising demand for color in jewelry across the
gemstone board. New mines are opening in countries like Mozambique,
Madagascar and Zambia and these areas now produce beautiful
sapphires, rubies and emeralds.
Such increased interest in colored stones is behind a significant
surge in auction room prices for new and period jewelry featuring
the gems, which makes 2016 a strong year for anyone who wants to
sell sapphires which are sitting in safe deposit boxes or in dusty
old jewelry boxes.
Jean Ghika says: "With prices so buoyant, now is a really
good time to sell sapphires and other colored stones. We encourage
clients to look in their jewelry boxes and safety deposit boxes and
bring in any pieces they simple don't wear anymore for a free
valuation with a view to sale. They will get our expert advice on
how to achieve the best price and may be surprised at the current
value of their sapphires given demand for the best quality stones is
"A long forgotten jewel which hasn't been worn for years
could be given a second lease of life with a new owner or collector
and realize a substantial sum of money for the seller in the
Antique sapphires from historic mines are particularly sought
after by collectors and investors due to their rarity and are
commanding record prices at auction according to Bonhams.
Sapphires hailing from Kashmir – which display a vivid velvety
blue tone unique to the region - are among the most highly-prized
gems for serious collectors and investors due to their rarity and
their scarcity. This is due to the fact that while there are still
sapphires to be found in Burma and Sri Lanka, no mining activity
takes place in Kashmir due to the depletion of the mine in the
Today Kashmir sapphires are amongst the rarest of all gemstones
and are avidly sought by collectors who are prepared to pay princely
sums for top-quality specimens.
Bonhams has seen many sapphires dramatically exceeding pre-sale
estimates at auction, demonstrating a rapidly strengthening market.
There are numerous examples of significant price increases at
auction of the last five to ten years.
Examples of sapphires soaring at auction:
- In 2004, a 30-carat Sri Lankan sapphire sold at Bonhams London
for £11,950. A decade later, a similar Sri Lankan stone, also
weighing 30 carats, sold for a staggering £326,500 – an increase
of 2,200 per cent.
- In April 2015, a ring set with a Kashmir sapphire weighing
21.27 carats and carrying a pre-sale estimate of £50,000 to £80,000
sold at Bonhams for a stunning £290,500.
- In December 2015, a pair of 19th century earrings set with
Kashmir sapphires that belonged to a European princess and weighing
a little less than eight carats each sold for £1,538,500 – more
than tripling their pre-sale estimate of £500,000.
- At Bonhams New York in December 2015, an oval-cut Kashmir
sapphire weighing 7.84 carats and set in a ring by Tiffany & Co
sold for a staggering $1.3million [nearly £918,000], breaking the
world record for a sapphire under 10 carats.
- In April 2014, Bonhams London sold a Sri Lankan yellow sapphire
weighing 86.32 carats for £60,000 - six times its high pre-sale
Sapphires boasting optical effects can also attract much interest
at auction. These include 'star sapphires', which are cabochon-cut
[shaped rather than faceted] stones that portray a star-like effect
called asterism on the surface, caused by light reflecting from
numerous tiny inclusions in the stone.
In September 2014, a star sapphire weighing 83.98 carats made £52,500
against a pre-sale estimate of £15,000 to 20,000.
Recent results at Bonhams demonstrate the global appeal of the
stone with the auctioneer reporting its top sapphires being
purchased from its London Fine Jewelry sales by buyers coming from
the US, Canada, Europe, Hong Kong and South Korea.
As a result, Bonhams is expecting greater interest in its
upcoming Fine Jewelry sale in London which takes place in its New
Bond Street salesroom on 20 April. This features over 20 sapphire
lots including a ring set with a cabochon-cut Kashmir sapphire,
weighing 7.13 carats, estimated at £50,000 to £70,000.
There is also a fine pink sapphire set in a Cartier ring, which
weighs 17.15 carats and is estimated at £30,000 to £40,000.
Bonhams Fine Jewelry sale takes place at midday on Wednesday 20
April in its New Bond Street salesroom.