SINGAPORE (Mar 12): Most people can only dream of getting their hands on diamonds, rubies, jadeite and opals. For Vickie Sek, handling some of the world’s most prized gems is all in a day’s work. As Christie’s deputy chairman and director of jewellery, Asia, she oversees all aspects of the British auction house’s jewellery sales in the region and works closely with top Asian collectors. Sek will be in Singapore from March 12 to 14 to meet private clients who would like to have their jewellery appraised, know more about what is happening in the luxury market or seek advice on what gems are hot and can make good investments. Besides jewellery, Christie’s also handles fine art, antiques, watches, wine and other luxury items.

Market insights and tips
So, what are the key elements collectors should look for when buying a piece of jewellery?

“Everyone likes different things. Collectors should first look for what they like and what they will enjoy most,” says Sek in an email interview. “Then look for quality and rarity.” Origin is also important, as it determines the value of a gem. As part of its service, Christie’s traces and certifies the source of all its stones to ensure that they are conflict-free. “If collectors are unsure, they can always speak to our specialists.”

Sek, who has been in the industry for 40 years, says white and coloured diamonds have been consistently in demand all these decades. Gemstones are leading the trend because they are getting rarer.

Last November, a 14.93-carat Fancy Vivid VVS1 pink diamond called The Pink Promise sold for a record US$32 million ($42.2 million).

“Collectors are always keen to get the good ones before they are taken off the market and kept in private collections,” she says.

Sek believes purchasing jewellery is a better move than putting one’s money in property or stocks because their prices can fluctuate. Investing in jewellery is more stable because it makes a healthy long-term investment, she says.

Besides, the beauty of jewellery is that it can be worn and admired. “Jewellery is wearable, enjoyable and portable, and it’s a must for women. Even when a woman is perfectly dressed, jewellery will always make her look brighter and more elegant,” Sek adds.

And while most jewellery buyers are women, Christie’s sees many male clients coming in to select pieces for their loved ones.

Brand-name pieces tend to sell better at auction than other jewellery or loose stones, she points out, “as customers think the resell chance is higher”. The good thing is that they are spoilt for choice. Van Cleef & Arpels, Cartier, Bulgari and Harry Winston are but a few of the big names Christie’s has handled in recent years.

There is also a significant difference between buying jewellery from an auction house and getting something from a dealer or store. “Customers can [find] pieces they will never see in jewellery stores or from dealers because we offer rare items of high quality, and collections from prestigious families and famous persons,” Sek says.

These days, online auctions have made purchasing gems more accessible and convenient worldwide. “Christie’s provides condition reports and clear photos of each item for its online sales. Our specialists are always there to explain the details and make sure clients know what they are buying,” says Sek.

A lifetime with jewellery
Sek’s gem journey took off four decades ago when she started working in a jewellery store. “I’ve only been in this business — I’ve never changed to another field,” she shares.

She joined Christie’s as a jewellery specialist in 1994 and the company’s sales of jewellery and jadeite in Hong Kong has grown markedly since. Sek has been responsible for the consignment of some of the most important Asian collections, including that of Theresa Po Lau sold in November 1998 and the family collection of K’ung Hsiang-hsi, which fetched US$14.6 million, seven times above its low estimate, in June 2015.

Last year, Hong Kong was the world’s second-largest jewellery auction hub, proof of Asia’s growing appetite for precious jewels.

“With the growing market from mainland China, we do benefit from the buying power. They buy jadeite, coloured diamonds and gemstones. Chinese buyers often keep investment value in mind — whatever is good for investment, they will go for it,” says Sek.

Christie’s taps that demand by sourcing good items, she adds. “Powerful collectors are always there when unique pieces come up in the market.”

On what it takes to be an expert jeweller, Sek says: “Basically, you need to study gemmology, and you need to see and compare a lot. Pay attention to worldwide market prices and trends.”

What does she enjoy most about her job? “I can see all the important and rare stones in the market, meet clients from all over the world and work with talented people in the company.”

Is Sek a collector herself? “Unfortunately, no. I see so many nice things every day... Those that I like, I can’t afford and those I don’t like, I won’t buy!”

Collectors who wish to meet Vickie Sek and get their jewellery appraised can contact Christie’s Singapore via [email protected] or call 6735 1766. M S Tai enjoys writing about food, travel, family and wellness

Sek says collectors should first look for what they like then look for quality and rarity The sale room during Christie’s most recent auction last November