The director and head of the Jewellery & Jadeite Department at Christie’s in Asia speaks to Asia Tatler about the robust jewellery market, and offers tips for first-time bidders

From a pair of unmounted round brilliant-cut D Flawless diamonds the size of cherry tomatoes to spectacular coloured stones and rare jadeite, Christie's Hong Kong autumn sale of Magnificent Jewels happening this month is set to amaze top collectors. On November 29, 2011, the auction house will present over 300 diamonds, gems, and jadeite jewels valued at HK$600-800million (US$75-100million).

"The upcoming autumn sale of extraordinary jewels has been curated to fit connoisseurs' desires and current market trends," says Vickie Sek, director and head of the Jewellery & Jadeite Department at Christie's in Asia. The sale comes hot on the heels of a successful first half of 2011, where strong sales and record prices were achieved at Christie's sales of jewellery, globally.

In light of the upcoming auction, we chat with Sek for deeper insight into what the top collectors have their eyes on, and what to do if you're bidding in an auction for the first time.

Asia Tatler: Your job scope requires you to source for jewels and subsequently introduce them to prospective buyers - how do you anticipate the preferences of each client?
Vickie Sek: Beyond the show-stopping lots, the market is broad and varied, and mid-range jewels, from signed pieces by famed houses to classic solitaire diamond rings, are also in strong demand. We see more and more clients participate in our sales, not just in Hong Kong, but also in the major sales in New York and Geneva. We know our clients appreciate the fact that we bring rare and important jewels to auction each season. Our collectors are extremely savvy. They understand the best of quality and know how to choose great jewels.

AT: What are serious jewellery collectors looking for nowadays?
VS: Apart from flawless white and rare colored diamonds, buyers continue to source important colored gemstones including Burmese rubies and jadeite, Kashmir and Burmese sapphires, as well as Colombian emeralds. All these gems have a consistent demand as they represent beauty, rarity and enduring value. Also, round diamonds that weigh between 3-5 cts of D/IF Type IIA quality are very popular. Vintage jewels signed by master makers such as Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels or Bulgari pieces are also in demand.

AT: The jewellery market appears to be going strong despite concerns about the economy, as compared to say, the art market. What would you say is the reason for this? Is the pool of jewellery collectors growing, or do they feel more confident investing in jewels?
VS: The beauty with jewellery is that it can fulfill both functions, as a wearable piece and as an investment. Many collectors acquire signed pieces because they appreciate their beauty and are passionate about such jewels. Investment, I think, is not a priority but is present at the back of their minds. And this idea of 'investment value' does act as an incentive to continue looking for the rarest and most desirable jewels.

AT: What kind of jewels are most popular?
VS: Signed, vintage jewels have always had a strong following, and more so today as examples from this period have become more and more difficult to find. Period jewellery - Victorian, art nouveau, art deco or retro - has fared well for as long as I can remember. It will continue to do so as there are less and less pieces available in the market, and the workmanship of many of these pieces is of the highest quality.

AT: What do you love most about working with jewellery?
VS: I love looking at some of the most fabulous and rarest jewels from all over the world, and also meeting fascinating private collectors, as well as the trade. Also, I enjoy working with the Christie's specialists who are among the best in the business and are respected leaders in the jewellery industry.

AT: What tips would you offer to someone bidding in an auction for the first time?
VS: If you are absolutely new to Christie's and auctions, it is wise to take a little time to not only research and investigate the field or category in which you wish to start buying, but also to familiarise yourself with the auction process itself. One of the best ways is to consult with an auction house like Christie's. Christie's specialists are invaluable resources to collectors of all levels and they are the key to Christie's global market leadership and our position as the world's leader auction house for magnificent jewels. Specialists are always on hand to answer key questions about an item, its condition, its' estimated price.

© 2022 Tatler Asia Limited. All rights reserved.