Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Bling - Auction Bling!

I found myself at two Bling auctions recently salivating at a few million dollars of jewellery. Both these auctions were held at the Conrad Hotel in Hong Kong.

Not heard of a bling auction? Me too, until the husband saw an ad in the South China Morning Post. It was at his suggestion that we go look-see. Hmm, I thought - when a man wants to go to look at bling willingly, you should not refuse! So off we went!

The first held by an auction house called First State Auctions had about 251 items up for bid. The other auction, two weeks later was organised by Lawson's Limited and featured 899 pieces jewellery that had either been seized through assets auctions, bankruptcies, foreclosures, probates and liquidations. 

The experience was immensely interesting and here are things that I learnt that I previously did not know:

1. Variety and Private Collections 

You get to look at jewellery which you would not usually see displayed at a jewellery store probably because the pieces on auction are much more varied, usually a lot larger in size although not necessarily superior in terms of clarity and colour.  I was particularly intrigued by the seized pieces and what were in some private collections - it was like taking a naughty sneak peek into someone's jewellery box. 

2. Ask to see the Certificate 

Don't expect fancy displays with counter top lighting. The bling is neatly arranged in velvet lined cases, each piece with a tag number in bold, some pieces with certificates and others without. Value (prices) are not displayed so ask the Salesperson for the estimated value and if there is a certificate which often lists the colour, cut and clarity of a piece and obviously the total number of carats. Note that most items are privately valued but not officially certified (ie. with original certs). 

3. Free Drinky Poos

The Coffee and Tea comes free and so does the catalogue for what's up on sale. Although for you to enter the room to enjoy a cuppa and browse the pieces at the same time, you will need to register for a paddle. No matter that you don't buy anything.

4. Scratch all you want 

During the auction, don't be afraid to stand up, scratch your nose or have a sip of tea. The only thing that signifies that you have made a purchase is if you raise your paddle and they take your number down. So unless you want to be poorer by a few thousand, keep that lucky number (mine was 13 - can you beat that?) deep inside your purse.

5. Sales Tax 

Bidding is fast and furious and a good auctioneer knows how to talk up the price quickly. Have in mind your price threshold and don't forget that at most auctions, a 15% surcharge called a Sales Tax is paid by the bidder so what you are prepared to pay should be $X plus 15%.

6. First Sale of the day is the best deal

The first sale of the day is also often the best buy so if you have an eye on something make sure it is the piece that starts the day's bids! With a first piece, the auctioneer's message to you is that everything is available at an easy steal.  Oldest trick in the book! For example, the first piece sold at the Lawson's auction was a Ring with Baguette diamonds 1.42ct.tw. Ruby 9.46ct set in 18K white gold valued at HK$50,000. The opening price was for HK$10,000 and it was sold to the first bidder at HK$14,000 (minus the 15% sales tax).   

7. Can you expect a good buy? 

At a regular jewellery auction, you could get some good buys if you bid wisely but you must have a trained eye to know what you want and what you are willing to pay. Research your price properly and decide on a reserve that you will buy at. At the auctions with seized jewellery, that's where you can expect to get a good if not great deal. I noticed that the auctioneer's goal was to clear his plate and most items went for about 30% to 40% off the actual estimated value!

For the curious amongst you, here is a quick peek into some of the pieces that were sold at the Lawson's auction which has an online catalogue that you can look at - www.lawsgov.com: 

Earrings (2) Studs, Diamonds 10.19ct.tw. 14K white gold setting
Estimated Value: HK$1,852,000
Opening Bid: HK$450,000 sold at HK$500,000 
Earrings (2) Round Diamonds 2.01 (2) Marquis Diamond 1.22 (2) Oval Diamond 1.34. Total = 4.57 ct.tw 
Estimated Value: HK$382,000 
Opening Bid: HK$55,000 sold at HK$60,000

Ring Light Fancy Yellow Solitaire Diamond 1.51ct. (2) Diamond 0.57ct.tw set in 18K white gold. 
Estimated value: HK$121,000
Opening Bid: HK$20,000 sold at HK$30,000 

- Elaine


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