Colored Gemstones Dominate Auctions in 2023

Paddles up! Collectors showed their enthusiasm for colored stones that went under the gavel in 2023. From auction results we learn what buyers favored this past year.

While we recognize fancy color diamonds are having a great time, gemstones are also the darlings of sophisticated auction bidders. They sense what creates value in gemstones, and they understand what’s behind a pleasing color that makes it a true investment.

From popular prices to the highest price ever paid for any colored gemstone, here are a few of the sales in 2023 that also caught our eye.

In a prelude to the end of 2023, the David Webb emerald and diamond neckpiece sold at Sotheby’s New York December 7 auction. The lovely 15 ½ inch circlet—slightly more relaxed than a choker, earned over $38,000.

The David Webb Emerald and Diamond neckpiece

Yellow gemstones are perennially favored by collectors owing to their sunny disposition and attractive hue. Yellow sapphires, with their similar look to yellow diamonds, adds to their desirability. Sapphires are the next hardest gemstone to a diamond and take an extraordinary polish. This yellow sapphire and diamond ring sold at the top of its estimate at Sotheby’s New York December 4, 2023, for $8,890.

Yellow Sapphire and Diamond Ring 

The same Sotheby’s New York December 4 auction offered another fancy color sapphire and diamond ring for sale. This time it was an elegant pink sapphire. After the closing of the Argyle mine in 2020 which was legendary for its pink diamonds, fans turned their attention to pink sapphires which provide the glamor and sparkle of pink diamonds at a more modest cost. The 5.18 center pink sapphire ring brought in $12,700.

5.18 ct center Pink Sapphire Ring

It would be hard to overstate the importance of this extraordinary ruby. The Estrela de FURA ruby set a record for ruby and any colored gemstone—selling for $34,805,500 at Sotheby’s New York in June. The stone was unearthed in Mozambique the year before as a 101 carat rough.

Estrela de FURA

As a rough crystal, it dazzled experts with its fluorescence, atypical clarity, and vivid red "pigeon's blood" hue which is traditionally associated with fine Burmese ruby. 

To color stone enthusiasts, Myanmar (or Burma) has long been the top source for high quality ruby. With the depletion of Burmese ruby mines over time, jewelers have shifted focus to Africa, specifically Mozambique for quality ruby where it’s emerging as a significant ruby supplier. 

While Burmese ruby is top drawer, Burma is also the source for priceless sapphire. The heroes of Bonhams New York Dec 2023 auction were two splendid sapphires. The star of the sale was the 11.87 carat no-heat Burmese cushion sapphire selling for $660,900. The transparent gem realized three times its pre-sale estimate, proving what collectors feel about the stunner.

11.87 ct no-heat Burmese Cushion Sapphire

The next lot at Bonhams auction was a 3.91 carat no-heat Kashmir sapphire fetching $343,400. This sapphire and the Burmese sapphire were from the estate of sculptor Stewart Blay, a studied collector of jewels and gemstones.
3.91 ct no-heat Kashmir Sapphire

Proving that there is excitement in a mix of colors, a jewel of historical importance went to auction at Bonhams New York in December 2023. The pristine 1930s Chanel multi-gem-set “Maltese Cross” cuff was attributed to Fulco di Verdura. The renowned Italian jeweler made it while working at Chanel. It nearly doubled its high estimate, bringing in $432,300,.

The enamel cuff is set with sugar loaf cabochon amethyst, faceted amethysts, aquamarines, sapphires, rubies, and emeralds. 
The Maltese Cross

Tupac Shakur’s self-designed ruby and diamond crown ring was worn in his last public appearance of 1996 and was included in Sotheby’s July auction of hip-hop memorabilia. The $200,000 pre-auction estimate was wiped out after garnering more than $1M---more than any other item in that sale.

Tupac Shakur’s crown ring

Purple and violet are colors often associated with royalty. Having a famous pedigree can only boost the value of a piece as was observed at Sotheby’s January 2023 online sale. The Garrard-made amethyst and diamond cross pendant worn by Princess Diana on several occasions carried a pre-sale estimate of $96,000 to $144,000.  Sotheby’s said that four bidders were in hot pursuit of the pendant in the last five minutes of its online-only auction. A representative for Kim Kardashian ultimately won by paying $197,453, or over $50,000 more than its highest estimate.

The Garrard-made amethyst and diamond cross pendant

Trailblazing television journalist Barbara Walters owned these bespoke JAR paisley design earrings, They were a personal favorite of hers, said Bonhams New York, who auctioned her jewelry in November of this past year. Set with peridot, tourmaline, sapphire, and diamonds, the pair sold for $203,700.

Bespoke JAR Paisley Design Earrings

Colored gemstone jewelry is truly an artform where vividly hued stones substitute for the artist’s palette. They set the mood, reveal the wearer’s taste, and sometimes disclose an astute eye for investment pieces.

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