Sotheby's special luxury evening sale rakes in US$16.2m in Hong Kong

Recent years have witnessed a blooming demand for luxury goods at auctions. Indicative of this new trend, Sotheby's 50th Anniversary Luxury Evening Auction: The Exceptionals saw all six lots across categories on offer sell in Hong Kong, amassing a sale total of HK$126.6 million (around US$16.2 million). 

Among various coveted luxury items such as the Hermès So Black Feather Kelly and Patek Philippe x Tiffany & Co. Nautilus wristwatch, the most expensive lot went to a The Emperor's Treasure, an Imperial Green jadeite bead necklace, which sold for HK$61.5 million (around US$7.9 million) with fees.

Note: Two lots were withdrawn ahead of the sale, including a Hermès Himalayan handbag and The Algeiba Star, a 133.04-carat Fancy Vivid Yellow Diamond

Lot 88 | The Emperor's Treasure, A jadeite bead, ruby and diamond necklace
Number of beads: 43
Size: Range from 11-13 mm
Estimate on request
Hammer Price: HK$51,000,000
Sold: HK$61,489,000 (around US$7.9 million)

Auctioneer Uni Kim (Specialist, Jewellery Department) opened biddings for the present lot at HK$40 million and it was hammered at HK$51 million, selling for HK$61.5 million (around US$7.9 million) with fees to a telephone bidder with paddle number L0004 represented by Wenhao Yu (Chairman of Jewellery and Watches Department, Asia). 

The Imperial Green jadeite bead necklace of lot 88 – a lucky number in China – is named The Emperor's Treasure, paying tribute to the title of the imperial bibliotheca of the Qing dynasty (1644-1911). Stored in the Imperial Palace, the collection included an assortment of rare antique manuscripts cherished by the Qianlong Emperor. In 1744, the year when Sotheby's was founded, the Emperor officially named it as 'Gems of Heavenly Favour'. 

Auctioneer Uni Kim

Wenhao Yu won the present lot for his client with paddle number L0004

While jadeite can be found in a variety of colors – ranging from greens, mauve, lavender, yellow, white, black and even colorless, top-quality ones are those that possess a fine translucency with a deep emerald green hue. This is often called "Imperial Green" quality, a grade considered a parallel to the international color standards set for the “Pigeon's Blood” for rubies and “Royal Blue” for sapphires.

The beads on this exceptional necklace are well matched, with fine Imperial Green colour and superb texture. With forty-three beads ranging from 11-13mm in size, the necklace is perfect in its roundness.

In 2014, a Hutton-Mdivani Imperial Green jadeite necklace sold for HK$214.04 million at Sotheby's Hong Kong in 2014, which set the world auction records for jadeite jewellery, and the most expensive Cartier jewellery.  

Lot 86 | Cartier | A 'Tutti Frutti' gem set and diamond demi-parure
Remarks: The hexagonal carved emerald weighing approximately 50.44 carats; Ruby with floral motif weighs approximately10.15 carats; Two pear-shaped carved emerald drops weigh approximately 71.22 carats in total
Estimate: HK$22,000,000 - 35,000,000
Hammer Price: HK$21,000,000
Sold: HK$25,860,000 (around US$3.3 million)

An icon of Art Deco jewelry, Cartier's 'Tutti Frutti' creations are masterpieces of East meets West. During the early 20th century – a period marked with radical cultural shifts in the world – Cartier was well-known for taking inspiration from the exotic and creating never-before-seen elegant pieces that captured the extracted essence of Mughal jewelry. 

Cartier's first foray into this brightly Indian style was a necklace for Queen Alexandra who, as the wife of King Edward VII and by extension Empress Consort of India, commissioned a piece to complement three Indian-style dresses.

Ten years later, in 1911, Jacques Cartier, who ran the Maison in London, began to travel extensively to India, where he sourced fine colored stones which were carved into Mughal aesthetics and fashioned into naturalistic motifs such as flowers and leaves.

Aimed at a western audience, Cartier soon worked their way into harmonizing the carved gemstones into a modern aesthetic and set them into platinum with diamonds, the design which would later be named the “Tutti Frutti”.

The necklace from the present 'Tutti Frutti' gem set

The earrings from the present 'Tutti Frutti' gem set

Jacques Cartier sourced fine carved gemstones from India in the early 1910s

Lot 85 | Cartier | An unique 'Tutti Frutti' gem set and diamond bracelet watch
Remarks: The carved cushion-shaped emerald weighs approximately 41.20 carats
Estimate: HK$9,000,000 - 16,000,000
Hammer Price: HK$9,500,000
Sold: HK$11,945,000 (around US$1.5 million)

Created after a hundred years from some of the very first Tutti Frutti jewels, the two lots are a homage to one of the most iconic collections from Cartier’s history. Quintessentially a Cartier creation, the bold hues and textures of the gemstones are enhanced by the innovative craftsmanship and extraordinary 21st century design.

The Tutti Frutti demi-parure, made in 2018, highlights a 50-carat hexagonal emerald enhanced with dashes of onyx alongside carvings of rubies, emeralds and sapphires as leaves branching out from the centre. Two asymmetrical emerald pendants from the necklace can be detached and worn on another diamond chain, offering a variety of ways to style the jewel.

As for the bracelet watch, it was created in 2016 as a mechanical movement with manual winding watch. It is adorned with a central 41-carat emerald engraved with Mughal motifs. Cartier also made a wristwatch in Tutti Frutti style in 1929, featuring a table-cut emerald over the watch dial, and now belonging to the Cartier Collection.

Lot 84 | Patek Philippe | Nautilus, Reference 5711 | A limited edition stainless steel bracelet watch with date and Tiffany turquoise lacquered dial, Retailed by Tiffany & Co.
Manufactured circa 2022
Diameter: 40 mm
Estimate: HK$16,000,000 - 24,000,000
Hammer Price: HK$16,500,000
Sold: HK$20,415,000 (around US$2.6 million)

In 2021, Patek Philippe decided to officially discontinue its well-loved Nautilus 5711, which caused a shockwave in the watch community. As a last firework for this reference, Patek Philippe and Tiffany & Co. came out with a surprise at the end of the same year by announcing the release of a brand-new limited edition of Nautilus wristwatches in steel with Tiffany blue lacquered dial.

This special edition made its debut at auction in late 2021 and netted US$6.5 million, a stunning 125 times of the retail price and record high of the Nautilus series sold at auctions. 

The story of these two brands dates back to 1851. Antoine Norbert de Patek, on his first trip to the United States, sought a worthy retailer capable of selling his complicated pocket watches in the New World. He found his way to the store of Charles Lewis Tiffany, who would have thought a firm handshake between the two figureheads would mark the beginning of a long-lasting partnership – to be endured for over a century and a half.

On the case back of the watch, an inscription “170th Anniversary 1851-2021 Tiffany & Co. – Patek Philippe” is engraved as a tribute to the historic ties between the two companies. Taking a closer look at it, collectors will even find the letters “LVMH”, Tiffany & Co.’s parent company since 2019, stamped within the last digit of “2021” as a surprise.

Only 170 pieces of this limited version are available exclusively in the Tiffany & Co. boutiques in America. It is alleged that only those spending over US$2 million at the New York jeweller would stand a chance to buy these timepieces. 

Lot 83 | The Yamazaki 50 Year Old 2005 First Release 54.0 abv (1BT 70)
Estimate: HK$3,000,000 - 5,000,000
Hammer Price: HK$3,800,000
Sold: HK$4,826,000 (around US$619,000)

The Yamazaki 50-Year-Old first edition, once the most expensive Japanese whisky, was distilled in the 1950s and had spent its entire lifetime slowly maturing in Japanese mizunara oak, a detail that makes this bottle stand out.

It has been one of the rarest and most sought-after bottles for reasons. At the time of its first release in 2005, the whisky was the oldest expression to ever have been bottled in the distillery’s long history.

Of the 50 bottles ever produced, it is believed that no more than a dozen are left in the worldwide market. Even with subsequent releases of the second and third edition – the 2005 edition still retains an appeal and prestige beyond its esteemed peers.

Looking back at the previous Japanese whisky sales, all Yamazaki 50-Year-Old selling at a record-setting price belong to the first edition:

  • August 2018|Bonhams Hong Kong|Sold: HK$2,695,000 (around US$345,500)
  • May 2019|Ravenel Taipei|Sold: NT$13,512,500 (around US$433,300)

Today, the title of the highest-priced Japanese whisky still belongs to Yamazaki, which is held by the ultra-aged Yamazaki 55-Year-Old which sold for HK$6.2 million (around US$795,000) at Bonhams Hong Kong in August 2020.

Lot 82 | Hermès | Limited Edition Black Box Feathers So Black Kelly 32 Sellier Black PVD Hardware
Made in 2010
32 x 23 x 10.5 cm
Estimate: HK$1,000,000 - 1,200,000
Hammer Price: HK$1,600,000
Sold: HK$2,032,000 (US$261,000)

More than an accessory, the Hermès Birkin or Kelly bag is long considered a symbol of class and status. While a black Kelly stands alone as the ultimate statement piece for timeless elegance, legendary French designer Jean-Paul Gaultier took the design a step further in 2010 when he launched the So Black collection – a bag made for monochromatic blackaholics. 

As one of Gaultier's final creations for Hermès and the only bags in the brand's history to have all-black hardware, So Black Kelly is nearly impossible to come by and highly coveted among collectors. 

Among the rarest So Black bags, the Feather Kelly was constructed in collaboration with Maison Lemarié, the haute couture feather métier founded in 1880. Together, two historic French luxury ateliers selected the finest natural feathers, attaching them meticulously to the Kelly one at a time to elevate the classic with a touch of extravagance. 

Auction Details:

Auction House: Sotheby's Hong Kong 
Sale: 50th Anniversary Luxury Evening Auction: The Exceptionals
Date: 5 April 2023
Number of Lots: 6
Sold: 6
Sale Rate: 100%
Sale Total: HK$126,567,000 (around US$16.2 million)