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Jewelry Auctions and Hot Commodities: Part 1

An industry magazine recently featured an interview with Francois Curiel, the international director of the luxury division of Christies and its Chairman for Europe. I thought I’d share some interesting bits with you since this is an area most of us never get to know well.  The most relevant parts of the article for you were his comments on the collections of famous people.

In 2011, Christies handled the sale of the estate of Elizabeth Taylor, who had a dream collection of diverse, ultrafine examples of gems in every category. Curiel tells us that “every piece was the best of its kind—the brightest gems, the richest natural pearls, many high-quality diamonds and Kashmir sapphires, Burma rubies, vintage, and contemporary signed pieces."

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Provenance plays a huge role in establishing auction prices, though, and the fact that these jewels belonged to one of the world’s most famous actresses added huge monetary value to the lot.  Elizabeth Taylor knew a lot about gems and jewelry, and she chose her pieces according to the same standards someone in the business would use if purchasing for a particular client. Curiel cites this auction as a high point in his 50-year career.

He also talks about the auction of two diamond bracelets belonging to Marie Antoinette which sold at Christies for $8.2 million with an opening estimate of $2 million to $4 million. Curiel tells us that “previous ownership by royalty, aristocrats or celebrities enhances authenticity and gives the piece a persona. It can dramatically multiply the piece’s value beyond its physical worth.”

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Marie Antoinette bought these bracelets in 1776 and had them delivered to her daughter, Madame Royale, who lived from 1778-1851.  Since then, the bracelets had been passed down through the family line until they were sold recently at the auction. Curiel told us that the stones themselves were probably worth around $100,000 but the provenance created the price.

Best regards from the studio. Spring is coming!