Global auction house Bonhams has revealed the jewels set to perform particularly well at auction this year

As part of its ‘January Jewels’ campaign, which hopes to help Britons understand the true value of family heirlooms that might be gathering dust, Bonhams has unveiled a top 10 list of ‘hot jewels’ that are especially in demand.

The list reflects items that perform particularly well during the sales Bonhams holds throughout the year.


The campaign will also see the auction house open its doors virtually through the January Jewels website, and Bonhams will also be conducting a series of valuations up and down the country in the next two months.

Bonhams global director of jewellery, Jean Ghika, shares: “We would love to see what gems and pieces of jewellery people have tucked away in their jewellery boxes and in safe deposit boxes.  Now is a great time to get an up-to-date valuation and it could be a valuable start to 2018 for those who don’t realise the value of the pieces they own.”

Here, the auction house presents its ‘hot list’:

1) Coloured diamonds

According to The Robb Report, just 10 years ago, a buyer could have bought a vivid blue diamond for $200,000 to $300,000 per carat; today that same stone is fetching $2 million to $3 million per carat. This tenfold increase in value surpasses the growth rate of the FTSE 100 and the S&P 500 Index and also the housing market /real estate market.

A one carat vivid blue diamond, for example, can command roughly ten times more than a light-blue stone of the same size, according to the Fancy Color Research Foundation, whose recent figures show that between 2006 and 2014, blue, pink, and yellow diamonds experienced an average appreciation of 154.7 per cent.

Jean Ghika, global director of jewellery at Bonhams, says: “50 years ago a coloured diamond was considered a curiosity, and most collectors focused on the whitest stones.  Now, the market is more informed and the beauty and rarity of these stones is fully appreciated.  Yellow, pink and blue fancy coloured diamonds in all sizes and saturations are increasingly sought after by buyers around the world today.”

Prices are set to continue to rise according to data released from The Fancy Color Research Foundation (FCFR) with the average price of all fancy blue coloured diamonds rising by 8.1 per cent in the last two years.

Bonhams recently consigned a Fancy Intense Blue diamond, weighing 4.03 carats, which had been held in a private collection for nearly 30 years.  This sold for £2,685,000 ($853,203 price per carat) against its pre-sale estimate of £1,200,000 – £1,500,000 in London last September.


2) Rubies

In the jewellery world, rubies are on fire. Traditionally they have always been one of the ‘big four’ in fine jewels, alongside emeralds and sapphires, but now they have become the main attraction, and attracting huge interest around the world according to Bonhams.  The auction house’s records show that an Art Deco ring by Lacloche, containing an unheated five-carat Burmese ruby, sold for £30,000 in 2007. A comparable ruby in a ring by Cartier fetched £362,500 more recently.  This represents an 1,108 per cent increase over just seven years.

Jean Ghika comments: “In the last few years, we have seen rubies fetch prices at auction that exceed the price per carat of diamonds. This reflects a greater understanding and appreciation for specimen rubies.”


3) Colourless diamonds/white diamonds

Diamonds are never out of fashion and remain the universal symbol of love and romance.  Easy to wear, elegant and effortlessly stylish, diamonds remain popular.

Jean Ghika comments: “Diamonds, in their various shapes and sizes are by far the most popular stone we sell at Bonhams.  At the moment, we are seeing a growing appetite for old cut diamonds, these were popular during the Victorian, Edwardian and Art Deco periods and were hand cut.  They have immense charm and have an individuality some view as lacking in modern diamonds. These have been the most sought-after diamonds over the last few years.”


4) Sapphires

There has been a resurgence of interest in coloured stones and Bonhams is reporting a growing trend for people choosing coloured ‘statement stones’ like sapphires.  Sapphires come in a wide variety of colours – including pink, yellow and padparadscha (a rare pinkish orange colour) – and these hold a great appeal for serious jewellery collectors and investors.  That means the stones are not only holding but also increasing their value, making them an appealing buy in an otherwise increasingly volatile financial market.

A sapphire and diamond ring from Bonhams archive.

Antique sapphires from historic mines are particularly sought after due to their rarity.  Today Kashmir sapphires are among the rarest of all gemstones and collectors are prepared to pay princely sums for top-quality specimens.

Bonhams has seen many sapphires dramatically exceeding pre-sale estimates at auction.  In 2004, an 18.24 carat Kashmir sapphire sold at Bonhams London for £129,350.  In 2016, Bonhams sold a similar sized stone sold for £1,385,000, representing a 970 per cent increase over a 12-year period.

Jean Ghika says: “With prices so buoyant, now is a really good time to sell sapphires and other coloured stones. We encourage people to contact us to discuss any pieces they no longer wear 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 very high.”


5) Emeralds

Like many stones, the per carat price of fine quality emerald escalates rapidly with size. Value also hinges largely on colour of the stone and clarity. Top quality, untreated stones (with certification) hailing from Colombia are in demand and have sold well at Bonhams auctions in the last year and have markedly increased in value in the last 10 years.  For example, in 2004, Bonhams Los Angeles sold an 8.30 carat Colombian emerald ring for $47,000. Fast forward 10 years and Bonhams London sold a similar emerald, weighing 10.49 carats, for £362,500 ($ 612,000).  In the same year, a 10.09 carats emerald sold in Hong Kong for HK$7,240,000 (£591,500), representing an increase of 1,900 per cent.


6) Belle Epoque/Art Deco Jewellery

Jewels from particular eras are also catching the eyes of buyers around the world.  New data by Art Market Research shows strong performance of jewellery over the last decade.  In the last decade, antique jewellery is up by 54 per cent; jewellery from the 1945-1975 period is up by 88.9 per cent and Art Deco (1920s and 1930s) and Belle Epoque jewellery (1890 to 1915) up by 71.8 per cent.

Art Deco diamond necklace by Cartier.

7) Designer/signed jewellery

Designer/signed jewellery has achieved remarkable prices over the past few years at auction, with buyers from around the world seeking out the best examples of pieces of jewellery made by the great Houses including Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Bulgari, Verdura, Suzanne Belperron and Tiffany.

One fascinating example Bonhams cites is when it sold a Van Cleef & Arpels ballerina brooch for $68,500 in New York in December 2012.  In June 2014, it sold a similar brooch for $221,000, representing a 223 per cent increase in less than two years.  Another example is an Art Deco coral brooch by Cartier sold at Bonhams London in London in September 2009 for £ 45,600.  A comparable Art Deco coral brooch, also by Cartier sold in 2014 in New York for US$ 317,000 (£189,250).


8) Natural Pearls

Natural pearls have seen a surge in value over the last decade, and grey natural pearls, are rarer and more valuable than white pearls.  Data from Art Market Research report a 286.1 per cent increase in natural pearls over the last decade and two out of Bonhams top 10 lots sold at auction in 2017 were natural pearls.

9) Artist jewellery

Another area that is performing well is Artist Jewellery.  These tend to be one-of-a-kind pieces, miniature pieces of artwork, and are being collected the way people collect contemporary art or sculpture.  Jewellery by Suzanne Belperron, Coco Chanel, Hemmerle, Georges Braque, Daniel Brush and Andrew Grima are all in demand.

Bonhams London recently sold a ChanelTwist Necklace designed by Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel.  This was given to one of Bonhams jewellery experts at a regional valuation day by a female customer who thought the chunky gold “twist” necklace studded with large cabochon citrines was worthless costume jewellery.  In fact, it was a very rare piece of mid-20th century jewellery by Coco Chanel herself. The necklace had a pre-sale estimate of £4,000–6,000 and eventually sold for £68,500 in April 2015.


10) Spinels

Many of the world’s most famous “rubies” are, in fact, spinels. The magnificent red gemstones that are the showpieces of several European state crowns are actually spinels.

According to Bonhams, there is a noticeable interest in spinels with many collectors recognising their value and wanting to buy the best examples.  It recently sold a 5.30 carat Burmese red spinel in its London Fine Jewellery sale in April for £65,000 versus its pre-sale estimate of £15,000-20,000. There was equal interest in a 9.15 carat Sri Lankan blue spinel in its November sale in Hong Kong which sold for HK$625,000 (£60,000) against a pre-sale estimate of HK$200,000-300,000 (£20,000-30,000).