By Brecken Branstrator
081114 S-Article2The Hutton-Mdivani necklace is “the greatest jadeite bead necklace of historical importance,” Sotheby’s said. The necklace topped the auction house’s jewelry lots in the first six months of the year when it sold for $27.4 million in Hong KoNew York--Auction house Sotheby’s reported Friday that net auction sales were up 24 percent to $2.7 billion in the first half of 2014, with jewelry sales climbing substantially in the period.

This increase was led by strong performances in Hong Kong and London, which led to an 18 percent increase in auction commission revenues to $403.8 million compared with the prior-year period. Net income also was up during the six-month period, increasing 3 percent to $71.5 million.

Jewelry sales in both the second quarter and first half of 2014 climbed 41 percent, the auction house said.

The top lot for Sotheby’s in the jewelry department during the first half of the year was the storied Hutton-Mdivani necklace, made of 27 jadeite beads of “magnificent green color, excellent translucency, extremely fine texture and majestic proportions,” according to Sotheby’s. It sold for $27.4 million in April, more than double its highest pre-sale estimate.

Other top lots include the 100.09-carat, cushion-shaped VS2 “Graff Vivid Yellow” diamond, which sold for $16.3 million; a 70.33-carat, D color flawless Type IIa cushion-shaped diamond set into a ring, which sold for $14.2 million; and the “Red Emperor Necklace,” set with 60 pigeon’s blood rubies ranging in size from 0.72 to 5.04 carats for a total of 104.51 carats, sold to a private buyer for $9.9 million.

Prior to the release of its first half financials on Friday, Sotheby’s announced a restructuring plan designed to reallocate resources to collecting categories and regions that show the greatest potential for growth and to reduce cost. According to a Sotheby’s spokesperson, some departments will be expanded and new positions created while other areas will see modest staff reductions by the end of the year. It was unclear at press time how many employees would be affected by the restructuring.

Commenting on the company’s first half results, Sotheby’s President and CEO Bill Ruprecht said, “Sotheby’s is seeing success across categories and around the world.” 

He added, “The fact that 26 percent of our buyers in the first half of the year were first-time clients shows we are engaging with a new generation of collectors, and that’s exciting. We’re looking forward to building on the successes of these six months with a number of exceptional sales this fall and with our new eBay partnership that will showcase our New York auctions to an unrivaled global online audience of millions of potentially new collectors.”

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At upcoming sales scheduled for this fall, Sotheby’s will offer property from the collection of the late Rachel Lambert Mellon in a series of auctions in New York. Mellon’s marriage to Paul Mellon, the only son of financier Andrew Mellon, in 1948 united two of America’s most affluent families.

Sotheby’s will auction more than 2,000 individual pieces, including jewelry, from the Mellon’s residences in the United States and abroad that are estimated to have a total value of more than $100 million. Proceeds from the sales will benefit The Gerard B. Lambert Foundation, a charity established by Mellon in memory of her father that supports horticultural and educational endeavors.

In addition, in November Sotheby’s Geneva will present “The Henry Graves Supercomplication.” Made by Patek Philippe in 1933, the clockwatch is making a reappearance in the marketplace 15 years after its record sale to coincide with the brand’s 175th anniversary. The most complicated watch ever made entirely by human hands, it is estimated to sell for more than $16 million.

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