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12 Record-Breaking Sapphires Sold at Auction Houses

When was the last time that you laid your eyes on a beautiful sapphire? A gemstone with interesting properties, sapphires have set several record sale prices at auction. In fact, the Rockefeller Sapphire, an incredibly rare Burmese sapphire, has made headlines for breaking a record sale price for a sapphire not just once but twice at $3,031,000 in 2001.

Sapphires over the years have captivated the world, not only with its grace and beauty but also with its almost natural perfection. It is why at auctions they are more likely to fare well than diamonds and rubies. Just to prove it and also for the curious amongst you, we have compiled the 10 best sapphires that have graced the leading auction houses around the world.

1. Blue Belle of Asia

The “Blue Belle of Asia” is probably the most popular blue Ceylon sapphire of all time. Apart from being the world’s 4th largest faceted blue sapphire, it also claims the highest price achieved by a Ceylon blue sapphire at a public auction at $17,000,000. The Blue Belle of Asia holds the world record for any sapphire sold at an auction. And it’s not only that! It was the first time that a blue sapphire/coloured gemstone lot had topped the sale at a public auction and it was no surprise for such a spectacular blue gemstone. This 392.52 carat, cushion-cut Ceylon sapphire brought Christie’s Geneva auction last November 2014 to extra fame and increased the value of Ceylon sapphires in the market.Blue Belle of Asia

2. The Richelieu Sapphires

In November 2013 Sotheby’s Geneva auction declared this Kashmir cushion-shaped sapphire as the highest priced sapphire jewel in an auction. Weighing 26.66 and 20.88 carats respectively, the price per carat of this rare velvety blue stone is a whopping $175,821. Each stone shows no indications of heating and is supported with Gubelin and SSEF reports.

According to the Swiss Gemmological Institute, the matching pair of natural sapphires from Kashmir of this size and quality is very rare and expensive. Being well-deserved of what it claims to be the “Finest Sapphires of Kashmir”, the Richelieu sapphires’ auction price was set at $8,358,520.The Richelieu Sapphires 3. 114.74 carat Unmounted Burmese Sapphire

What is so special with this oval Burmese sapphire? Apart from selling for over $7 million at Sotheby’s Geneva auction in November 2013, this exceptional royal blue sapphire holds the world’s auction record for the sale of a Burmese sapphire. Accompanied by SSEF and Gubelin reports, this sapphire with Burmese origin shows no indication of heat and is noted to have been perfectly cut from the rough crystal to show the finest royal blue colour. 114.74 carat Unmounted Burmese Sapphire4. 130.50 carat Burmese Sapphire and Diamond Brooch

The Christie’s Geneva auction in May 2011 caught the world’s eye when this cushion-cut Burmese sapphire of 130.50 carats achieved a world record price of $7,127,453 until it was broken last November. The blue gemstone is the centrepiece of the rose-cut diamond and collet-set old-cut diamond frame, making a complete beautiful brooch. The SSEF Swiss Gemmological Institute described the stone as rare with no indications of heating and exhibits an outstanding purity.130.50 carat Burmese Sapphire and Diamond Brooch5. The Unique Sapphire and Multi-Gem ‘Cote d Azur’ Brooch

Anna Hu made the perfect sapphire masterpiece with her display of this brooch that features a 58.29 Burmese sapphire during the Christie’s Geneva auction in November 2013. Sold at an eye-popping price of $4,569,684, this rare cushion-shaped sapphire pushed Anna Hu to fame as it gained the highest auction price per carat for a Burmese sapphire at $78,396 per carat. The blue large stone is adorned with diamond floral branch with moonstones, tsavorites, tourmalines, spinel, coloured diamonds and drop-shaped emeralds. As based from the report of SSEF Swiss Gemmological Institute, the sapphire is of Burmese origin with no indications of heating.

The Unique Sapphire and Multi-Gem ‘Cote d Azur’ Brooch

6. 26.41-carat Kashmir Sapphire and Diamond Brooch

How do you like a rare large sapphire surrounded by brilliant-cut diamonds all in one brooch? This 26.41 carat Kashmir sapphire and diamond brooch combines a sapphire’s elegance and diamond’s brilliance. Sold for a massive price of $3,838,508 in November 2011 at Christie’s Hong Kong auction, the supersize sapphire is wrapped inside two tiers of old European-cut diamonds mounted in 18K white, rose and yellow gold. Graded by SSEF Swiss Gemmological Institute as rare without heat treatment and is of Kashmir origin. 26.41-carat Kashmir Sapphire and Diamond Brooch

7. 47.15-carat Burmese Sapphire and Diamond Brooch

A sapphire brooch, no matter the size and shape, has always something to give and in May 2012 Christie’s Geneva auction proved that sapphire brooches are irreplaceable. Previously owning the record price per carat for a Burmese sapphire at $77,390, this 47.15 carat sapphire and diamond brooch by Mellerio is set in an old-mine cut diamond frame with single and brilliant-cut diamonds in ribbon detail. It was graded by SSEF Swiss Gemmological Institute as rare with no indications of heating, making it well-deserved of the selling price of $3,648,894.47.15-carat Burmese Sapphire and Diamond Brooch

8. The Star of Kashmir

People are seriously not getting enough of sapphires as another sapphire ring wowed the auction house Christies last May 2013. The Star of Kashmir is a cushion-shape sapphire of 19.88 carats. It previously held the world auction record price per carat for a sapphire at $175,259. The two cushion-shaped diamonds flanked on each side weigh 3.02 and 2.72 carats, making the ring extra powerful-looking. SSEF Swiss Gemmological Institute identified the sapphire to be extremely rare and a very exceptional treasure.The Star of Kashmir
9. 42.28-carat Kashmir Sapphire and Diamond Ring

Another cushion-shape sapphire has dominated the Christie’s Geneva auction when this 42.48 carat Kashmir sapphire held the world auction record for sapphire in 2008 with a price of $3,458,420. The rare, large sapphire is set in between half-moon diamond shoulders, mounted in 18k white gold. The ring is gorgeous on the first look and identified to be of Kashmir origin with no indications of heating. 42.28-carat Kashmir Sapphire and Diamond Ring10. 21.42-carat Kashmir Sapphire Ring

Sotheby’s always never fail to give the most exciting auction results ever. When this 21.42 carat Kashmir sapphire was set to sell for auction in November 2013, many anticipated this gemstone to sell at a high price. And it did! Coming from the Estate of a European Royal Princess, this fine Kashmir sapphire ring sold at a golden price of $3,231,584. The cushion-set sapphire is accompanied with a Gubelin report stating that the stone is of Kashmir origin with no heat treatments. 21.42-carat Kashmir Sapphire Ring

11. Antique 22.66 Kashmir Sapphire and Diamond Pendant

As Christie’s 2007 New York sale sets this Kashmir sapphire and diamond pendant as one of their highlights, auction goers have high hopes to claiming this almost-perfect piece of jewellery. Apart from being antique, the overall design and setting of the pendant is surreal. Surrounding the cushion-cut sapphire weighing approximately 22.66 carats are old-European cut diamonds mounted in gold. It gained attention when it owned the world auction record for a sapphire for a price per carat of $135,000 that year. The report from Gubelin Gemmological Laboratory states that the sapphire is free from heat treatments and is of Kashmir origin. Antique 22.66 Kashmir Sapphire and Diamond Pendant

12. Impressive and Rare Sapphire and Diamond Necklace

One of the most beautiful sapphires from Sri Lanka took the centre stage during the last April 2014 Sotheby’s Hong Kong auction in a form of this gorgeous necklace. The 102.61 carats Ceylon sapphire is surrounded by brilliant-cut diamonds and fixed by a double-strand necklace set with brilliant-cut diamonds ends into a jaw-dropping price of $4,206,378.00, bringing Sotheby’s another gemstone to remember. Accompanied by AGL and SSEF reports, the exceptional sapphire is natural with no indications of heating. AGL report also states that the sapphire has “unusual combination of size, provenance and absence of treatment.” Impressive and Rare Sapphire and Diamond Necklace

Sapphires have all the fascinating features you could imagine in a gemstone. And if you are contemplating having a sapphire ring, necklace or set of earrings made for you, check out our collection of treated and non-treated sapphires to find your inspiration.

10 Most Famous Celebrity Coloured Engagement Rings

We have seen the world go crazy over the extravagant wedding celebrations of several Hollywood celebrities and royals over the past years. With the bride’s white gown and glittering wedding ring, fantasies have been created and real princesses have come to life.

But have we thought about giving a second look at what seems to be the most exciting and intriguing? Yes, that big and bright thing they put on their fingers before they say “I do” – the engagement rings that exploded the internet and made rounds all over the world.

Here’s a rundown of the best and the most luxurious celebrity engagement rings of all time!


1. Empress Josephine

The ring that Napoleon gave to his sweetheart and future bride, Josephine is dubbed as one of the most beautiful coloured rings ever. The ring which includes a gold band with a pear-shaped sapphire and diamond increased in value over time and was purchased by an anonymous bidder for almost half a million in an auction.

Empress Josephine Ring

2. Blake Lively

Anyone who knows Blake Lively knows she was a lucky woman to receive a $2-million dollar pink diamond ring from film actor Ryan Reynolds on his proposal. The oval-cut stone designed by famous jeweller Lorraine Schwartz is set in rose gold with small pave diamonds around the band. We bet no one would ever say no to this ring!

Blake Lively engagement ring

3. Kate Middleton

If there’s something big to envy about Kate Middleton aside from being the Duchess of Cambridge, it would be her blue sapphire engagement ring which is likely the most famous engagement ring of all time. The royal ring, which was once owned by Princess Diana, is set with 18-carat diamonds with a big 12-carat sapphire in the centre. It is said that the famous ring is now valued to over half a million dollars, increasing more than tenfold in value over time.

Kate Middleton engagement ring

4. Jackie Kennedy

Beauty and elegance was always associated with Jackie Kennedy and it became more so when President John F. Kennedy slipped a gorgeous baguette ring on her finger. The ring is set with a 2 carat diamond and 2 carat emerald with baguette diamonds around the stones, making it a big fantasy to many jewellery collectors. Proudly designed by Van Cleef & Arpels, this unique ring was priced for over a million dollars.

5. Jessica Simpson

Actress, songwriter and singer Jessica Simpson owned the spotlight when Eric Johnson handed her a romantic 5 carat ring that includes a supersized ruby in the centre with 2 brilliant diamonds on each side. The ruby ring that captivated several ring collectors is said to be Jessica’s special birthstone.

Jessica Simpson engagement ring

6. Halle Berry

It was a lucky moment for Academy Award Winner Halle Berry to finally receive the ring of her dreams which is recognized to be one of the most expensive and stylish rings ever designed by a jeweller. The 4 carat square-cut emerald which has an estimated value of $200,000 is adorned with two smaller diamonds on each side. To make the ring even more interesting, French designer Robert Mazio embedded a Phoenician code that symbolizes the couple’s love story.

Hale Berry engagement ring

7. Carrie Underwood

The canary yellow diamond engagement ring that brightly shines around the finger of country singer Carrie Underwood is perhaps one of the most beautiful coloured engagement rings that has surfaced in the celebrity world. It was designed with 12 carats of diamonds with yellow diamonds averaging roughly 5 carats plus a round-cut yellow diamond in the centre. There were rumours circulating that the price of the ring has reached a million dollars.

Carrie Underwood engagement ring

8. Kelly Clarkson

American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson whipped up worldwide attention when she accepted the gorgeous square-cut yellow canary diamond engagement ring from Brandon Blackstock two years ago. The ring centrepiece is a flawless yellow diamond adorned with smaller diamonds. No news on the exact cost but Carrie’s tipped the scales at $150,000. The ring is said to be one of the most talked about coloured engagement rings in Hollywood.

Kelly Clarkson engagement ring

9. Elizabeth Hurley

This square-cut sapphire engagement ring found its perfect home on the finger of actress, model and fashion designer Elizabeth Hurley when she said YES to cricket player Shane Warne’s proposal. The ring has a huge 9 carat sapphire adorned with 2 carat trillion-cut diamonds on each side and was believed to cost over $100,000. Looks like love was lovelier the second time around for this beautiful “Gossip Girl” star.

Elizabeth Hurley engagement ring

10. Mariah Carey

A beautiful big voice deserves a beautiful big ring – that is Mariah Carey, a multi-platinum singer who owns the $2.5 million 17-carat diamond ring from husband Nick Cannon. The ring was designed by Jacob & Co. and said to be one of the most expensive celebrity engagement rings ever made. The emerald-cut pink centre diamond is surrounded by 58 pink diamonds and has two half-moon diamonds on each side, placing Mariah into another level of fame.

Mariah Carey engagement ring

Things to Think About when Buying an Engagement Ring

Ladies, there’s probably nothing more sweet than to see an engagement ring pop up from your man and be asked for a “happy ever after” with him. Who doesn’t like such a romantic act? But have you ever wondered how in the world did he ever find the perfect engagement ring to give?

Men, you are probably stressed out on where to start your engagement ring purchase. During those days, you may wish for a fairy godmother to appear and grant all your ring demands but surprisingly, she’s not there to help. Think about giving up? We hope you don’t. We understand the bumps you have faced and we are here to guide you on your purchase to the most gorgeous engagement ring that fits your soon-to-be fiancée.

Follow these 7 practical tips and be ready to hear a sounding “Yes” from your sweetheart.

1. Know her lifestyle. This requires you think carefully about how she expresses herself – at work, in social settings or simply being at home. Remember that the engagement ring will be on her hand everyday for some time or ever for the rest of her life. It would keep you close to getting the right ring for her by learning her personal style like her favourite fabric, the colour of her clothes, her shoe style and the jewellery she prefers to wear every single day. Considering the nature of her job will give you an idea on how the ring will fit into what she does on a daily basis.

know her lifestyle

2. Get her ring size. Though it seems like a small detail, her ring size is a really big consideration and something you must never ignore. It can be very disappointing and daunting to have a ring re-sized after the grand proposal – she may find the idea less attractive. So be cautious with this one. One sure fire way to know her ring size without her knowing is to let a friend borrow the ring she often wears and together, you compare it to a ring sizing chart or you may use clay to pattern the ring for a more exact measurement. Using a piece of string to measure her finger while she sleeps is another sneaky but effective way to get her ring size(!) Her best friend can be a good accomplice on this task as well. Ask her to show off her ring and encourage your girl to try it on and see how it fits. Just a little creativity on this one and you’re good to go.

3. Choose a stone shape. The shape of the stone can tremendously add beauty to the entire ring. Learn her favourite shape. Shape indicates the actual geometry of the stone. Among the most popular stone shapes to pick are: round, oval, emerald, marquise, pear, radiant, princess and the more unusual heart shape.

diamond shapes

4. Choose a ring setting. The setting of the ring can set the tone; therefore it is important that you pick a good one that can really make a big difference – something that can add value and beauty to the finished product. The setting is the metal framework in which the stone is mounted. You may find that a classic round stone becomes more beautiful and modern in a bezel setting while a trendy oval can appear more traditional in a four-prong setting. This is a matter of getting the right combination of stone shape and metal setting that gives the best desired effect.

5. Set the right budget. The cost of an engagement ring is oftentimes more than what you think it is. So if you haven’t yet looked for rings before, you may be surprised to encounter a really pricey one. But don’t let this discourage you. There are ring options for every budget and you can surely find the perfect ring for the budget you have set. To help you start, assess yourself how much you are willing to spend for an engagement ring without causing a dent in your savings. Secondly, set aside additional cash for unexpected expenses like shipment if you are buying the ring online or insurance for your item’s protection. The basic rule here is to never put your finances at risk with the purchase.

set the right budget

6. Consider the metal. There are several varieties of metals you can pick from for a ring. Among the most widely used are platinum and gold. Platinum displays an extremely durable finish while being a great hypoallergenic choice for couples with sensitive skin. Gold is also a top preference due to its multiple options of colours including white, rose and yellow, while giving out a classy and rich overall finish. Palladium, which is getting more and more popular, is another interesting metal to consider. It exudes a much darker colour than platinum and can be very elegant.

7. Shop safe. Don’t trust any jewellery shop you know nothing about. Start your search by seeking recommendations from your friends or family. If no one is there to give you recommendations, check for industry organisation affiliation. Stores with accreditation from GIA are reliable places to start. You may also consider checking the store’s return policy. This will give you the right to exchange the ring if it’s not what she wants. Remember to never get any jewellery without warranty or insurance and never buy an engagement ring without protection. Always assume possible loss, including damage or theft.

Always set aside enough time to search for the best engagement ring. Don’t rush your purchase. This is an investment that you wouldn’t want to waste just because of time restrictions.

Shopping for an engagement ring is definitely demanding and challenging. Some men would tend to turn away from the overwhelming considerations. But here’s the deal – once you arrive at the perfect ring you desire to surprise your lovely woman, you’ll see the price of your hard work all paid off. Yes, it takes time, even gets you to spend a lot but at the end of it is a marvelous happy ending with the woman you love. Is there anything greater than that?

6 Things to Think about Before Buying a Gemstone

Buying gemstones over the past years have been tough for many shoppers due to the production of simulated gem pieces in the market. The spread of these fake gemstones has hurt several certified gem suppliers and put gemstone quality at risk. A study initiated by Fire Mountain Gems revealed that fake gemstones are normally made of plastic, glass, ceramic and they often do a fine job in imitating natural gems, making it a lot more difficult for buyers to spot the difference.
Don’t make a mistake of buying the wrong gemstone. Here we give you the 10 best practices you should consider before buying any gemstone in your favourite local shop or online supplier.

1. Learn the name(s) of the gemstone. You may be surprised to know that there are more than 15 gemstones in the market today and learning their names is as important as getting yourself a good breakfast. Be cautious of the name of gemstones. You may come across gemstones that are known by two names, such as “Balsa ruby” which is actually red spinel or “evening emerald” which is peridot. See? It pays to be smart on this – don’t get fooled around, familiarise gemstone names.

name of gemstone

2. Identify the gemstone. The gemstone you are dying to bring home might be one of the following: natural, synthetic or imitation. Natural gemstone is said to come from nature without human interference, while synthetic are those produced in a laboratory using the visual, chemical and physical properties of a natural stone. Due to treatments, synthetic gemstones often appear flawless, giving extraordinary appeal to those wanting perfection. Imitations are described to be simulants that share no similar properties to natural gemstones. They are the lowest quality yet sometimes look authentic. So again we remind you – identify your gemstone’s quality and look out for the imitations.

Identify the Gemstone

3. Check the quality of the cut. Cut counts – remember that. Cut is what gives a gemstone the beauty and brilliance. How would you start with this? Notice the cut proportion – it should reflect the light in an even manner without any dark areas or ‘windowing’ (being able to see clearly through the back of the stone, like a window). A poorly proportioned stone normally accepts the light straight through thus, reducing the brilliance of the gemstone.

4. Know if the gemstone is enhanced. This is one important thing you should be asking your gemstone supplier. Gemstones that have been enhanced need special care and cleaning treatments and knowing this upfront could help you do what you need to do. Ask the jeweller the questions like “Has this sapphire been oiled?” or “Does this emerald have any diffusion treatment?” We guarantee; it is all worth it to bring home a gemstone that you know very well.

Gemstone Heated

5. Confirm the gemstone colour. This suggests that you need to check the gemstone colour in a variety of lights. Why do you need to do this? Remember that light intensity varies throughout the day. However, when you see a high quality coloured stone, it must look good under all lights – no exception.

6. Shop around and compare. It pays to spend time to shop around for a gemstone rather than stopping at your first choice. The London market alone has an ever increasing amount of gemstones you can check and compare. Unlike diamonds, the stores selling coloured gemstones are fairly distributed with no central marketing organization. Grading and pricing is a lot more subjective so shopping around can really reward you.

Shop Around

Buying a gemstone online? Learn from this checklist on what to consider:

1. Return policy. Check the seller’s return policy. Make sure that you are ONLY buying a gemstone from a store that offers a good return policy.

2. Colour difference. Listen, what you see on your computer monitor may not be the actual colour of the gemstone. This may be due to the colour settings of the monitor from the manufacturer or the brightness settings that you have set from the start. Sometimes, it could also be the seller applying enhancements to the colour or saturation of the gemstone.

3. Gemstone details. The seller must be able to provide you the most important details of the gemstone including the carat, cut, clarity and colour. The gemstone laboratory certificate can also potentially increase the authenticity of the stone – it would be best to look out for this.

4. Customer’s feedback.
We cannot stress this enough – perhaps the most important factor you should be looking at when buying a gemstone online. What people are saying can really reveal a lot about the store as a whole. Read what people share about the seller’s services, gemstone quality, payment and delivery services. Contact these customers if possible. You may also find searching the name of the store online as a better option to learn their company connections and social media accounts.

Customer Feedback

It pays to be smart every time you look around for your next gemstone investment. Go over our suggestions and keep them in mind. We wish you all the best in finding the gemstone of your dreams and something you could pass on to your future generations.

Port in the Perfect Storm

Photo by Russell Shor/GIA

The phrase “perfect storm” is a little over-used, however in this case, in Russia with the combination of a collapsing currency, a collapsing economy and punitive interest rates make it apposite. Coupled with the current vulnerability of Russia with a slow down of the Chinese economy, the Euro weakening about 30% against the Swiss Franc and U.S. Dollar, raising the prices of already costly items even higher – collectively this is resulting in a down turn in buying power and is reducing demand – especially for the buyers who are looking to acquire gems for investment.

However, the Port in this perfect storm is coloured gemstones. Demand for these from consumers, buyers and investors has not waned and only seems to be carrying momentum.
The evidence for this comes from several differing sources. The auctions; record prices being achieved for rubies and sapphires. In the December ruby auction in Singapore, Gemfields achieved an average price per carat of $689 (£438), with total sales of $43.3m from its Montepuez mine in Mozambique. Both figures were records for the London-listed miner and luxury goods specialist. And at the close of 2014, Sotheby’s set a new world record for a ruby when it sold an 8.62ct Burmese stone for 8.2m Swiss francs (£5.4m). The auction house also set a new world record for sapphires at a recent auction in Hong Kong, and next week’s Sotheby’s Magnificent Jewels and Jadeite sale in Hong Kong, is already proving to be very popular, with forecasters predicting records being broken when the final hammer falls.

Further proof in the increased popularity in coloured diamonds can be illustrated by the surge of requests for grading of these gemstones at GIA, the world’s foremost authority in gemmology. “Although coloured diamonds have been around for decades, the dramatic increase in their place in the consumer market in the last decade is unprecedented,” said Tom Moses, senior vice president of GIA Laboratory and Research.

Nicolas Bos, CEO and creative director of Van Cleef & Arpels Coloured stones were one of the key elements of high jewellery. But it’s no longer just celebrities and royalty who are adorning themselves with coloured gemstones. This trend is evident on the high street too, where there is an ever increasing demand for coloured gemstones in engagement rings – as consumers no longer see the trend for coloured gemstones as a flash in the pan. Coloured diamonds yes, but also garnets, sapphires rubies and emeralds in all shapes and hues are being sought to play not second fiddle to a white diamond but instead of.

So let’s buck the trend and make 2015 a colourful port in the perfect storm.

The Apple Watch – Technology versus Beautifully Engineered Luxury

Apple Watch about to hit the streets – yep, not the iWatch.

Apple has now finalised all the details including Apple Watch release date and UK price information.

The announcement was made at the Spring Forward event a few days ago, which was attended by analysts and media and took place in San Francisco. The event shed light on the exact release date for the Apple Watch, as well as the final pricing structure for the various different models on offer. In a nutshell it will be priced from £299 – to the special edition £8,000, with availability from 24th April worldwide.

Already this seems like a marmite product, one half scrambling gripped in a frenzy for Apple’s latest product – the other half, the camp that I am in, are somewhat nonplussed. This will undoubtedly be a fantastic gadget, as all Mac products are, it will work better than its competitors, and will probably be the most bought of this type. But that is where it ends for the latter half of the camp – do we really need this? Is it so hard to reach into our pocket and look at our actual smart phone? And to call it a luxury product is a bit of an oxymoron as technology by its definition is not long lasting, this is not something that can be passed on to the children, it probably won’t last the year, and if it does last a little longer, it will certainly be out of date at the end of year 2, much like my smart phone, which is the same thing without a strap.

I think Apple have missed the point of why people even wear a watch – as we certainly don’t need to. As I sit here and type I can see numerous gadgets that can tell me the time, my computer, the clock upon the wall, my phone and my iPad. As you can see I’m certainly not adverse to gadgets, in fact I love them. But I also wear a watch – why? I think people wear wrist watches because of admiration to craftsmanship, the design and feel. A beautiful, and probably quite expensive watch, is akin to fine jewellery, many can be passed on to future generations, worn for special occasions and admired for years. If we just wanted a watch to tell the time, we would still be wearing digital.

Computers and watches are different – how many times have we seen a Sotheby’s or Christie’s auction where a luxury watch has been keenly fought over – the most expensive watch ever sold at auction last year in Geneva for 20.6m Swiss francs (£13.4m). The Patek Philippe is made from 24 carat gold and weighing half a kilogramme – the Graves Supercomplication was made for an American financier in the Thirties, and took 8 years to complete. And it only tells the time. A computer no matter how fantastic no matter what memory it holds or how many apps it can take, will never be a luxury product. Computers are amazing and they make our world work more smoothly, but as soon as one is created it is out of date. So will the Apple Watch or smart watches replace the wrist watch? No certainly not, it is a fashionable gadget that can be played with for a short while.

In the long term, beautifully engineered luxury will always win out.

The Elephant in the Room

The Swiss Currency Cap

The Swiss Currency Cap

Over the past week we have delighted in the magnificent timepieces that were shown at SIHH. There was however an Elephant in the trade show room – the Swiss currency cap, or now the lack of it.

The Back story. Two weeks ago, The Swiss National Bank (SNB) said the cap, which was introduced in September 2011, was no longer justified. It also cut a key interest rate from -0.25% to -0.75%, raising the amount investors pay to hold Swiss deposits.

This move has been described as a “tsunami of pain” for the Swiss watch industry – which incidentally is one of the key “homegrown” money making industries in Switzerland. The decision to remove a cap on Switzerland’s local currency has resulted in backlash from a number of Swiss watch and jewellery companies, with reports emerging that prices for goods could rise significantly. Although reports that orders have been cancelled as a direct result of the removal of the cap are yet to be substantiated.

So why the outrage? Following SNB’s announcement, the value of the Swiss franc soared to record highs of more than 30 per cent compared to the euro, thus placing significant pressure on anyone who is trading using Swiss Francs. The news also resulted in a 10% or more drop in share price for companies including Swatch Group and Richemont, the parent company for luxury brands Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Montblanc and IWC Schaffhausen.

Why did the SNB lift the cap when they had to know it would cause a colossal backlash? Initially in 2011 the cap was introduced to manipulate the exchange rate. Now nearly 4 years later the SNB said that the cap had become unsustainable. Furthermore SNB Chairman Thomas Jordan said “If you decide to exit such a policy, you have to take the markets by surprise.” Eventually of course, the Swiss Franc will find its equilibrium and exporters will adjust to the currency’s “new normal”.

However, one worry is that the long term effects are an inevitable increase in watch prices, which will undoubtedly hurt sales in Asia. As a price increase will put Swiss watches out of reach for many Asians. However, it is not all bleak, given that demand in mainland China weathered the anti-graft campaign, the impact from a higher price there will hopefully be limited. As it removed the upper limit on the currency, the SNB sought to discourage new flows into Swiss francs by pushing down its interest rate on some cash deposits held at the central bank by commercial banks and other financial institutions.

One thing is clear, is that out of the abundance of speculations both substantiated and unsubstantiated, the gossiping and the scaremongering over the aftermath of lifting the Swiss currency cap – in the long term, only time will tell how much this move will affect the Swiss Watchmaking Industry. But one thing is for sure – it will be affected.

SIHH 2015 – The Most Opulent Trade Show You’ve Never Heard Of

SIHH 2015 – the most opulent trade show you’ve never heard of.

This week Geneva played host to the 25th annual Salon International de Haute Horlogerie (SIHH), the first major event of the year for the wristwatch industry. This is the first glimpse of the watches that will be in fashion in 2015. Only 16 brands show at the invitation-only event, the 13 owned by luxury conglomerate Richemont and three high-end independent brands that opt for the gentility of SIHH over the Baselworld show that takes place each March. There are literally hundreds of watches unveiled at SIHH in a matter of days. A real smorgasbord for the collectors eye, from the simply divine and understated creations from Lange & Sohne and Cartier – to vintage from Panerai and the supremely eye catching creations from Greubel Forsey. The entire show from the food served, the décor within, to the ball gowns worn by some of the women working at the show, is all designed to leave an impression of the highest opulence, luxury and exclusivity when you think back upon this event.

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The Gembank – Roundup of 2014

Happy New Year! Now we’ve said goodbye to 2014, perhaps it’s time to reflect on what a great year for the Jewellery industry it was. From headline grabbing coloured diamonds being unearthed (blue ones in particular), to the world’s most complicated watch – the The Supercomplication, made by Patek Philippe, being sold at auction for a whopping 20.6m Swiss francs (£13.4m) , to technology becoming wearable in the form of the iWatch. Controversy, as always was abound, with the arguments of diamond grading still raging, to platinum pricing coming into question and those pesky lab grown diamonds still causing a stir, or indeed still no final agreement on what to refer to them as; synthetic, lab grown, engineered, who knows? But one thing that we can all agree on, is that there never is a dull moment.

With so many reports to pick from I was spoilt for choice, here are those few that really stood out for me: marked its 175th anniversary with the release of the limited-edition Grandmaster Chime. This was to be the Swiss brand’s most complicated and elaborate timepiece to date. The 18-karat gold wristwatch costs $2.6 million, and features six new watchmaking patents and 20 complications, among them a leap-year cycle, moon phase and second time zone.

2, Auction records were broken at different times throughout the year, but the Christie’s sale of a 13 Carat Blue diamond, which garnered a cool $24 Million, really stands out for me. The stone, accompanied by a letter from GIA, said it was the largest fancy vivid blue the lab had ever seen. It was described by jewellery specialist Jean-Marc Lunel as “absolutely pure externally and internally. It is almost a dream.” It was bought by Harry Winston who immediately rechristened it, the Winston Blue.

3, 122.52 Carat Blue Diamond Found at Cullinan dubbed the Big Blue. This hit headlines all around the world. In June a 122.52 ct. blue diamond, the size of a walnut, was discovered at the Cullinan mine in South Africa. This unearthing got everyone excited, not only because it was the size of a paper weight, over 100 cts. But the rarity of Blue diamonds made this a truly significant find.

4, Gemfields unveiled a 40-carat ruby from Mozambique. Gemstone miner Gemfields discovered a 40.23-carat ruby–which it has called “one of the most important rubies unearthed in recent times”–at its Montepuez ruby deposit in Mozambique. The coloured gemstone miner, which also owns the largest emerald mine in the world at Kagem in Zambia, said it expected the ruby to be sold at auction in Singapore next month, its second ruby auction of the year.

5, Purple Orchid diamond, weighing 3.37cts. and worth $4 million was unveiled in September. After four months of meticulous polishing to bring out its radiant orchid colour – which happend to be the Pantone Colour for 2014 — the cushion-shaped stone went on display to the public for the first time, by Leibish & Co. of Ramat Gan, seat of Israel’s diamond exchange. This particular gemstone came from a mine in South Africa, one of the only mines where purple diamonds can be found in the world. Founder and president Leibish Polnauer. “There are very, very few diamonds on the market above 3 carats with purple as the main colour, which is what makes this exquisite diamond so rare.”

6, The Rhino Ruby. By far my favourite story of 2014. The ruby in questions was dubbed the ‘Rhino” for the The Gemfields’ auction of predominantly higher-quality rough rubies from its Montepuez mine in Mozambique, which totalled $43.3 million, a record total for the company which was propelled by the sale of the rare ruby it recently found. At the sale, Gemfields found a buyer for the 40.23-carat rough ruby it had only uncovered a few weeks prior, for an undisclosed amount. To recognize the successful sale of the gemstone, Gemfields said that it will support the anti-rhino-poaching aircraft operated by Game Reserves United by covering a significant portion of its flying costs for the 2015 calendar year.

May I take this opportunity once again to wish you and yours a very Happy fortune filled 2015.

Richard

A Quick Thought… On Add-on Sales

In this, the busiest time for sales of the year – there is still room to maximise profits with add-on sales. According to hosted e-commerce solution provider Shopify, 30% of consumers will make an additional, last-minute purchase when offered an item that complements what they’ve already decided to buy.

Add-on sales represent a significant source of revenue and profits to a company. The add-on sale is generally suggested by the salesperson once the buyer has made a firm decision to buy and is sometimes known as “upselling.” Christmas Day falls on a Thursday this year – so Super Saturday (the last Saturday before Christmas) has a further four days of selling after it, which is a great opportunity to really maximise those profit margins!

A few tips for accomplishing add-on sales and maximising profits for silly season 2014!

  1. Remember that once your customer has made a decision to buy, their wallet is open, they are in the mood to spend, and additional purchase decisions are much easier.
  2. For best results, mention the add-ons before the sale is completed, but after the major purchase decision has been made.
  3. If you’re offering products or services your customer needs, recognize that you are actually helping them. Try to increase the amount of every sale through helpful upsell and cross-sell offers.
  4. Offer relevant add-ons to your customers based on what they are buying from you there and then or their past purchase history. Think about Amazon, every time you buy something from them a few items titled “you might also like” and “other customers purchased” pops up.
  5. If you’re selling online, suggest available options and accessories right on the order confirmation page. You can also use a redirect after the transaction is completed and processed to send your customer directly to a “thank you” page where you can upsell or cross-sell.
  6. Make absolutely sure that whatever you offer your customer is adding value to their original purchase. As a happy customer will come back.

The best time to sell to your customer is when they’re already in a “buying mood.” Remember, if you’re not upselling and cross selling right now, you’re missing out on extra sales that you could be adding to every single order.

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