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Auctions in Geneva bring in millions

Diamonds are also collectors' best friends Keystone

Sales of jewels, luxury watches and vintage wines have brought in SFr137.3 million ($111.85 million) at auctions in the Swiss city of Geneva over the past week.

This content was published on May 18, 2007 - 09:41

Auctioneers say this confirms the attraction of the western city as a prime location in the auction world for jewellery and watches at the top end of the market.

The auction houses - Sotheby's, Christie's and Antiquorum – say that the sales brought in prices that were at times more than 50 per cent higher than in the spring sales last year.

Bidding was done on the spot, by telephone or over the internet by people from more than 40 countries.

The auction at Christie's accounted for SFr58.8 million of the total sales, with SFr30 million being spent on jewels.

A pear-shaped diamond weighing 20.28 carats went for SFr1.7 million on Wednesday, while a watch made by Patek Philippe of Geneva went under the hammer for SFr2.7 million.

Donnersmarck diamonds

Sotheby's announced on Friday that two diamonds that had once belonged to Count Guido Henckel von Donnersmarck weighing 82.48 and 102.54 carats fetched SFr9.67 million.

The were worn by his wife known as "La Paiva", a celebrated courtesan who flashed them around in a pendant or bracelet, or in an "aigrette", a kind of crested headdress.

An anonymous telephone bidder bought them at almost double the auctioneer's estimate.

"We are pleased to have seen the two stones staying together. The results ... are testament to the current strength of the market for fine gemstones and period jewels," said David Bennett, chairman of jewellery for Sotheby's Europe and the Middle East, who conducted the Geneva sale on Thursday night.

Antiquorum, which recently staged an auction of Omega watches that attracted bidders around the globe, made more than SFr18 million at its spring auction last weekend.

The top lot of the auction was one of only two known ultra-complicated watches with double chronograph completed by Patek Philippe in 1931 and sold in 1952.

With no fewer than 13 watch complications, the pocket watch fetched SFr928,900 from a United States collector after fierce bidding against a buyer from Taiwan.

The auction house said that some watches made by Audemars Piguet obtained "brilliant results", for instance an astronomic, yellow gold wristwatch with triple date estimated at SFr22,000 went for SFr175,500.

Omega watches also maintained very strong values and most went for three times their estimates.

swissinfo with agencies

La Paiva

Sotheby's said that the courtesan rose from humble beginnings as a weaver's daughter in Moscow, and through a series of shrewd marriages and liaisons became a key figure in Parisian society.

One biographer said of her: "She was far from beautiful: her hair was blue-black, her eyes were slightly protruding, her nose was Mongolian, while her mouth and chin suggested energy rather than gentleness.

However, she captivated a variety of wealthy men, including the Portuguese Marquess de Paiva, from who she obtained her title, before marrying von Donnersmarck in 1871.

She built a lavish hotel on the Champs Elysées in 1855 and acquired an extensive collection of jewels.

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