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By crossing the Hong Kong sea with the Western Harbor Crossing you can easily reach the new offices that the most important auction houses have inaugurated, or will inaugurate in the coming months, in the city: the West Kowloon Cultural District, designed by Herzog & de Meuron and Laab Architects, saw the opening of Phillips’ Asia-Pacific office in March; Sotheby’s is preparing to cut the ribbon on its offices in Chater House (but also aims to open in Tokyo, Seoul and Shanghai), and Christie’s has chosen 4,600 square meters spread over four floors at The Henderson, a new and luxurious skyscraper designed by the studio Zaha Hadid. Huge physical spaces, where exhibitions and events can be organised, which confirm that despite the proliferation of online auctions, proximity and contact are more important than ever for selling. A trend that is crossing the entire world of high-end, also highlighted in the latest Altagamma Consensus report, for which in 2024 sales through the retail channel will increase by 7.5% compared to 2022, compared to a + 4.5% for online ones.
These investments are also supported by the continuous growth in sales in the jewelery sector. The 2023 accounts will be published within the next few weeks, but the big names in the sector are already revealing optimism in this regard: the Sotheby’s jewelery department, for example, says that it will probably reach 525 million dollars this year, compared to 507 in the last year; Christie’s (which however channels both jewellery, bags, wines and watches into the Luxury department) recorded 413 million dollars in the first half of the year, compared to a total of 779 in 2022; Phillips has decided to invest with more conviction in the sector, hiring the talented Benoît Repellin, formerly of Sotheby’s, at its helm and including its first jewelery auction in the autumn calendar in Geneva, which totaled 21.7 million dollars, with a percentage of sales by value of 95%.
Faced with an increase in the offer of events, both physical and digital, which crowd the calendars of auction houses, enthusiasts seem to have solid points of reference that guide the destination of their passions and the investments necessary to satisfy them. Speaking of gems, the stars are confirmed as the colorful ones, blue sapphires at the top, followed by rubies and emeralds, then fancy diamonds, especially yellow and pink, all sharing excellent color values. In terms of eras, Art Deco is confirmed as one of the most loved, as demonstrated by the excellent results of the sale of the collection linked to the fin de siècle Viennese court by Sotheby’s, which exceeded expectations three times, and the series 1900 by Chaumet sold by Bonhams for over 305 thousand pounds, double the estimate. Celebrity, both of a fashion house and of a collector, is a guarantee of excellent results: among the most sought-after brands are Tiffany, Bulgari (whose creations from the 70s and 80s are highly appreciated), Van Cleef & Arpels, as are the designs by Fulco di Verdura, Aldo Cipullo and René Boivin. And among the best results this year are the sales of the collections of 20th century celebrities such as Anne Eisenhower (over 11 million dollars at Christie’s), the journalist Barbara Walters at Bonhams and the actress Mary Tyler Moore at Sotheby’s.
The jewels of the Habsburg court at auction in Geneva
However, two cases are also linked to celebrities which, to varying degrees, have shaken this year’s jewelery auctions, and which have involved Christie’s: the first, the refusal to complete the sale, originally divided into two phases, of the heiress Heidi Horten, following disputes over the origins of the immense fortune of her husband Helmut, an entrepreneur closely linked to Nazism. The second case saw the sudden withdrawal from the sale of the pearl, sapphire and diamond necklace worn by Audrey Hepburn in the film “Roman Holiday”, which launched her career in 1953. Recently Sotheby’s also surprisingly canceled the sale of the ” Blue Lagoon”, Paraiba tourmaline of almost 94 carats, the largest ever sold at auction, mounted on a necklace specially made by Adler Joailliers, which could easily have reached and exceeded 3 million dollars.