Jean Ghika, director, Bonhams jewellery department UK and Europe.

Auction house Bonhams has revealed its trends and predictions for the 2017 jewellery market.

In 2016, Bonhams sold more gemstones and pieces of jewellery than any other auction house in the UK.

Here, Jean Ghika, director of jewellery for the UK and Europe, gives her predictions for what she anticipates will capture people’s interest in 2017 along with an update on jewellery buying habits:


Coloured gemstones

In 2016, jewellery buyers put serious money into the very best coloured gems.  Emeralds, rubies and sapphires all soared at Bonhams Fine Jewellery auctions in London and also in New York and Hong Kong. In 2016 in particular, the finest unheated exceptional blue sapphires from Kashmir made big prices on the auction block.  The sheer rarity and exceptional quality of these stones from the now largely extinct mines located high in the Himalayan mountain range in north west India makes them highly sought after.


The appeal of buying a jewel with a great story behind it, ie owning a piece of jewellery that has its own rich and colourful history, should not be underestimated and continues to attracts buyers and collectors from around the world.  Whether it is owning something once worn by a great fashion icon, by royalty or by a famous person/celebrity, or having a piece in a collection that is completely historic, having endured centuries of turmoil/displacement to survive intact, it is increasingly appealing to UK and international collectors.

Coloured diamonds

Prices for fancy coloured diamonds, especially blue diamonds, continue to climb to dizzy heights.  According to the GIA, fancy coloured diamonds make up 0.01% of polished diamonds produced annually.  As a result of their incredible rarity and scarcity, they continue to fetch record sums.

Design-led jewellery

Jewellery is increasingly being considered an art form in its own right; it is no longer perceived just as a means of luxurious adornment. Modern and contemporary jewellery designers appeal to collectors who wish to build a collection of jewellery as they might build a collection of contemporary art. Modern jewels of strong and bold design, are often handmade, have a value over and above the intrinsic worth of the component parts.  These pieces are often one-offs or produced in very small numbers and their exclusivity increases their desirability.

Signed jewellery and period pieces grow in appreciation and demand

To find an original, intact, surviving jewel from a particular period in history, with the added bonus that it was made by a master jeweller, makes it an incredibly rare and valuable work of art.  Its value is not just in the gems but also in the fine workmanship and innovative design. As a result, Bonhams is expecting demand to further increase in 2017 and will be launching a campaign in the New Year to raise awareness of key makers and eras.

1970s revival

The 1960s and 1970s are decades which saw the emergence of jewellery ‘to wear’ rather than jewellery ‘to put away’. Unlike the more restrained jewellery of the 1950s the likes of Andrew Grima, John Donald and Stewart Devlin created jewels where the value lay in their aesthetic composition rather than the carat weight of expensive diamonds and gemstones used. Perhaps it is this ‘anti-bling’ stance that continues to appeal to the growing band of 21st century collectors.

The current competition amongst collectors to acquire works by these artists is intense and 1960s and 1970s jewellery design is now firmly established as a recognised collecting area and one that Bonhams anticipates will grow further in 2017.

Women are doing it for themselves

Bonhams is reporting that more and more women are buying jewellery for themselves – self-gifting for the fun of it, for investment purposes or as a way to spend their hard-earned bonuses. In fact, according to Bonhams, female buyers accounted for 28% of all jewellery bought at auction in 2016 compared to 24% in 2011.  Plus, their average spend at a Bonhams jewellery auction has more than doubled compared to 2011.

Online bidding continues to increase at a pace

In 2016, one in four jewellery lots were purchased online at Bonhams (24%) compared to one in seven (15%) in 2013.  As a result of a combination of advancements in technology along with the fact that we have multiple pulls on our time, online bidding at jewellery auctions has increased year on year, with more and more people opting to click and bid in the comfort of their own home or office.

Buyers in the Far East driving the market

Given the global appetite of jewellery, Bonhams has sold jewellery to successful bidders in all four corners of the world this year.  It is well documented that buyers from the Far East are very active in the jewellery sector and they are driving demand for exceptional gemstones and fine jewellery. For example, in the last three years, Bonhams has recorded a 25% increase in buyers from the Far East and an 11% increase in buyers from the US.