Sunday, June 19, 2011

Good Buy Friday: Classic Jewelry at Auction

Lady's Cartier gold wristwatch, estimate $3,500-4,500,
at Doyle, New York, June 23rd. (Platinum and diamond one available also)

I can't tell you how many friends I have who are daring and adventurous in so many ways--climb Mt. Kilimanjaro; teach in the inner city; invite their mother in law to stay for three weeks--and yet, when it comes to bidding at auction, immediately look cowed. "I went to an auction once," said one such individual, recalling a Sotheby's Impressionist painting auction, "those people sure knew their stuff."

Um, yes, well, if you're going to drop fifteen million dollars in one evening, you probably should know your stuff. But please, please, my friends: forget the press and the glitz and those marquee, record breaking auctions, just drop them from your mind. Because those are the exceptions, not the rule, and the rule is nothing like that. Avoiding auctions because they are fancy and intimidating is like saying you avoid movie theaters because you might trip on the red carpet and hit Angelina. You hear what I'm saying?

Good. Because I'm going to get you to bid at auction, my friends, I'm determined to, and the best point of entry, I find is, without question, jewelry.

Classic men's Cartier barbell cufflinks
 (every man likes barbells--easier to put on!)
estimate $1,000-1,500.
Why is jewelry so great for the neophyte? Well first off, because jewelry is one of the most marked up items on the planet. Seriously. Estimates range from a 400% mark-up for non-branded items to a several thousand percent mark up for the creme de la creme brands. It makes sense once you think about it: Mikimoto and Tiffany and Graff and Harry Winston and Cartier have all those stores in high rent districts across the globe, thousands of employees, and advertisements with lions and celebrities and lions lying on celebrities, to pay for. That stuff really adds up!
Buccellati  18k gold and emerald earrings,
at auction June 23rd, at J. DuMouchelle in Gross Pointe, Mi,
estimate $1,000-$1,500.
And yet, despite the absurd mark-up, who hasn't coveted some glittery designer bauble at one time or another?

...which brings me to my next point. Buying jewelry at auction, particularly brand name jewelry, is a great entry point because 1) you often know exactly what the item looks like already and 2) it's pretty easy to see what the manufacturer's retail price is (and thus, how much you're saving).

Case in point. This Elsa Peretti "bone" bracelet, so called because that bump on the top right is meant to cover your wrist bone, which means this bracelet is meant for the right arm (and the auction photo was upside down and I flipped it but never mind...). This design was trademarked in 1978 and Tiffany has been producing it ever since; it's a real, genuine classic.  Given this, Stair Galleries, which has a lovely example at auction on June 25th, put a pretty high estimate on it, $3,500-4,500 (probably because the client put a high reserve on it--she knows what she has!). Still, this size bracelet retails for $9,675, as you can see here, making the potential for a steal quite high.

Elsa Peretti Tiffany "bone" cuff, at Stair Galleries, June 25th,
 estimate $3,500-4,500.

Doyle New York has great jewelry sales throughout the year, with one coming up mid week. Here are some more Tiffany classics for your consideration:
Elsa Peretti starfish earrings: perfect for the season (and one of the few Tiffany items EVER that was actually much bigger in person than I expected), at Doyle New York, June 23rd, estimate: $400-600.

This Jean Schlumberger for Tiffany six row ring is a least with the women in my family!
At Doyle New York, on June 23rd,
estimate $500-700. (Matching earrings for sale, too!)

The DuMouchelle family has been in the auction business for decades. An excellent sale is coming up on June 22nd at Joseph DuMouchelle in Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan (But the preview is actually at the Plaza Hotel in New York, and there is a special dealer preview too, because, yes, as with regular auctions, most of the people who you will be bidding against are store owners, who will then go on to double or triple the price. Did I mention that jewelry was marked up?) Lots of marquee names here, including these timeless Seaman Schepps shell earrings...
Seaman Schepps shell earrings, one of seven pairs
up for bidding at J. DuMouchelle on June 22nd,
estimate $1,500-2,500.

 ...these Fred Leighton earrings.

Fred Leighton 18k gold shell earrings. At J.
DuMouchelle on June 22nd, estimate $2,000-3,000

Honestly, this auction has so many great things, you better look at the whole catalog. But at the tip top of the list would be something by master-of-all-time- jeweler Duke Fulco Di Verdura. The double crescent bracelet, below, retails for $55,500. The at auction estimate is $5,000-8,000. (Now, do you get it?)

Verdura double crescent bracelet. At auction, June 22nd, estimate $5,000-8,000.

I'm stressing the marquee names to get all you timid bidders off the fence. Once you feel more comfortable buying jewelry at auction, however, you'll probably start seeking out unique vintage pieces, such as this absolutely stunning Art Deco stud set, for your hard to buy for guy.
An Art Deco platinum, white gold, diamond and sapphire stud set.
At Doyle New York, June 23rd, estimate $1,500-2,500.

Vintage Buccellati 18k gold and ruby earrings at J. DuMouchelle on June 22nd,
estimate $1,500-2,500. 

I don't think these coral, diamond and white gold earrings at Doyle New York
actually are vintage, but they sure look it.
At auction June 23rd, estimate $1,500-2,000.

And finally, you'll love buying jewelry at auction because it's fun to gawk! This Mexican fire opal is such an Auntie Mame ring;  the perfect accoutrement to a summer cocktail.

Mexican fire opal, gold and diamond ring, at J.DuMouchelle on June 22nd,
estimate $2,500-3,500.

So friends, get going! I expect to see lots of pretty sparkles at our next gathering.

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