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Diamond and scroll break auction records in Hong Kong

Tuesday, April 5, 2016 - 21:10

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A rare blue diamond set a new record at Sotheby's in Hong Kong Tuesday after fetching HK$248.29 million (S$43.24 million), despite a slowdown in China's economy which has affected the auction market.

[HONG KONG] A rare blue diamond set a new record at Sotheby's in Hong Kong Tuesday after fetching HK$248.29 million (S$43.24 million), despite a slowdown in China's economy which has affected the auction market.

The "De Beers Millennium Jewel 4", a 10.10 carat vivid blue diamond, broke the record for the most expensive piece of jewellery sold at auction in Asia, but at the lower end of estimates which predicted it would fetch between US$30 and US$35 million.

Slightly larger than an almond, it is described by Sotheby's as the largest oval blue diamond ever to appear at auction and "internally flawless". It was sold to an anonymous phone bidder.

"It was a very successful sale," Sotheby's international jewellery division worldwide chairman David Bennett said.

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"The fact that it's a record price for jewellery in Asia I think speaks well about the Asian market... I think it's alive and well and very healthy," Bennett said.

The sale came hours after a scroll painting by Chinese master Zhang Daqian sold for a record-breaking HK$270.68 million, also at Sotheby's.

It was snapped up by Chinese collector Liu Yiqian's Shanghai museum - the latest in a string of massive buys associated with the former taxi driver turned tycoon.

Zhang's splashed ink and colour scroll outstripped the top-end pre-sale estimate of HK$65 million, breaking the record for the artist's work at auction.

A buyer from Liu's Long Museum ended hour-long bidding for the work, entitled "Peach Blossom Spring", with more than 100 bids cast.

The sales comes despite a slowdown in the Chinese economy which expanded 6.9 per cent in 2015, the worst performance in a quarter of a century and a far cry from years of double-digit increases.

There are fears that the combination of the Chinese economic slowdown and an anti-corruption drive by President Xi Jinping could hit the Asia market - both Sotheby's and Christie's posted lower totals at their autumn sales last year in Hong Kong compared with the two preceding years.

Mr Liu, who has been making record-setting purchases at auctions in the past few years, stunned the art world when he bought a famed nude by Italian artist Amedeo Modigliani costing more than US$170 million in November.

He set a record for Chinese porcelain in 2014 by paying over US$36 million for a tiny Ming Dynasty cup depicting a rooster and hen tending to their chicks, know as the "chicken cup".

Mr Liu made world headlines by drinking from the cup after he bought it.

Auctioneers say despite China's economic downturn, there is still demand for top quality collectibles, and demand stretches across Asia.

The "Seal of the Mandate of Heaven" which belonged to the Kangxi Emperor, the longest reigning Chinese monarch, is to be auctioned on Wednesday at Sotheby's as part of its spring sales season, with a starting at a price of HK$50 million.

AFP

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