Rubies Steal The Show At Controversial, Record Breaking Heidi Horten Auction

The first three parts of Christie’s controversial Heidi Horten jewelry sale, consisting of two live auctions in Geneva and one online auction with a total of 402 lots, realized more than $202.1 million, easily setting a new record for the most valuable individual gem collections at world that has ever come to auction. About 98 percent of the lots were sold to collectors from around the world, with 50 percent of the winners coming from Europe and the Middle East, 28 percent from the Americas and 22 percent from Asia, Christie’s said Monday.

Rubies took the top lots of two live auctions at Christie’s in Geneva.

The first sale held on May 10 brought more than 13 million Swiss francs ($14.6 million) for “The Sunrise Ruby,” Burmese’s celebrated 25.59-carat gem. However, it failed to reach the low estimate of 14 million Swiss francs.


A second Horten Gems sale two days later brought Harry Winston’s “Star of Africa,” center with a 54.95-carat ruby ​​from Mozambique, for more than $3 million, well above its high estimate.

Some gemologists who had not seen the rubies wondered why there was such a big difference between the prices of the two gems, even though they had similar characteristics – with the exception of their origins. Meanwhile, no one seems to be wondering why the Sunrise Ruby, which Horten bought in 2015 for more than $30 million, sold for less than half that price at the May 10 sale. Although it fell short of expectations, The Sunrise Ruby now holds the rare achievement of achieving the highest and second highest prices for a ruby ​​at auction.


The two live sales in Geneva were unusual in several ways. Rare rubies, although among the most valuable gems in the world, rarely replace fancy colored diamonds and white diamonds. In addition, the sale of 96 lots on May 10 brought a staggering 138.3 million Swiss francs ($155.5 million), making it the world’s single most valuable gem collection ever to come to auction. This happened even though several of the top lots sold did not meet the low auction estimate. There were also some spectacular sales for the May 10 sale. A total of 46 lots, half of the total number of lots offered, sold for more than $1 million. Eighteen of those lots earned more than $2 million.

The May 12 auction added 37.8 million Swiss francs ($42.4 million) to the total. A 12-day online sale of 152 lots of Horten jewels, which ended on Monday, added 3.7 million francs ($4.2 million) to the total. The top online sale was an 18-karat white gold and diamond watch by Piaget that went for 100,000 francs ($111,590), more than double the high estimate.

Approximately 300 remaining jewels from the Horten collection will be sold in another online auction scheduled for November.


The entire sale is also a matter of controversy because of the source of the money Horten used to buy the jewels. Heidi Horten’s late first husband, Helmut Horten, who was a member of the Nazi party, made his fortune by owning department stores. It is believed with credible evidence that his wealth was acquired through a practice known in Nazi Germany as “Aryanization”, buying businesses for a fraction of their value from Jews who were forced to sell to Aryans.

This prompted Yoram Dvash, president of the World Federation of Diamond Exchanges, to issue a letter to Christie’s, which has been made public, to either stop the auction or ensure that “the majority of Christie’s proceeds are donated to charities that support the welfare of Holocaust survivors, as well as commemoration and education ”, and that the amount given be publicly announced.


Christie’s said in a public statement that all the jewels in Horten’s collection are believed to have been legally purchased from legitimate sellers. “The provenance of each of the 700 items up for auction is well documented, with detailed indications of purchase, and none of these jewels were the result of a robbery or forced sale by a Jewish owner,” Christie’s said.

The statement continues that it is Horten’s desire to donate all proceeds from the sale to the Heidi Horten Collection, the Horten Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art founded in Vienna, as well as “medical research, child protection and other philanthropic activities.” … “This charitable dimension was an essential element in Christie’s decision to undertake the sale.”

Christie’s continues in its statement, saying it is committed to making a “significant contribution” from the auction proceeds to groups promoting Holocaust research and education. The auction house added: “It will be up to these organizations, if they wish, to communicate about these donations.”


In addition to rubies, which topped all sales in the two live auctions, colored diamonds, diamonds, pearls and jadeite were among the top lots in the March 10 sale, which was by far the most successful of the three auctions.

Lot number two was a 6.99 carat fancy diamond, an intense pink emerald cut diamond set on a platinum ring with baguette cut diamonds. It fetched more than 9.1 million francs ($10.2 million), more than double the high estimate.


Lot number three was a Harry Winston necklace made of three strands of cultured and natural pearls set with a fancy light pink diamond of 11.15 carats. He received 6.4 million francs ($7.2 million).

Then came another Harry Winston piece: “The Briolette of India” featuring a 90.38-carat briolette-cut diamond pendant with a platinum chain around the neck paved with marquise and pear-shaped diamonds. The two parts of the chain are detachable and can be worn as bracelets. It was sold for 6.3 million Swiss francs ($7.1 million).

Lot number five was a Bulgari 25-bead jadeite necklace with 18k white gold and diamond clasp for more than 4.8 million francs ($5.4 million).

This was followed by a Bulgari platinum brooch with a 5.14-carat fancy orange pear-shaped diamond, a 5-carat fancy intense purple-pink modified heart portrait cut diamond, a 4.26-carat fancy blue marquise brilliant-cut diamond and a 3.82-carat fancy intense yellow marquise brilliant cut diamond. He received more than 4.5 million Swiss francs ($5.1 million).


Lot number seven was an 18k gold ring with a 20.06 carat fancy pink pear modified brilliant cut diamond. He received more than 4.2 million Swiss francs ($4.8 million).

Other notable Bulgari pieces on sale on March 10 were:

  • A multi-jewel necklace featuring three important gems: a 37.84 carat modified cushion sapphire, a 33.59 carat padparadscha sapphire and a 33.20 carat emerald, as well as three brilliant-cur diamonds.515.15. , and a 1.53-carat marquis brilliant-cut diamond. It fetched more than 2.5 million Swiss francs ($2.9 million), more than $1 million more than its high estimate.
  • Large multi-jewel necklace centered with a 46.56 carat Old European brilliant-cut diamond, set with baguette-cut diamonds and caliber sapphires and emeralds. He received more than 1.4 million Swiss francs ($1.6 million).
  • 18k bracelet centered with a 32.32 carat fancy yellow cushion brilliant cut diamond with round yellow diamonds, round and baguette cut diamonds and emeralds. He received 428,400 francs ($480,980).
  • 18K gold earrings with cabochon oval sapphires, emeralds and baguette diamonds. He received 252,000 francs ($282,929).

Jadeite gems accounted for seven of the sales. In addition to the jadeite necklace among the top lots, other important pieces in the group are:

  • A jadeite and diamond bracelet by German designer Tamara Comolli for 516,600 francs ($580,000); and
  • A type A oval jadeite diamond ring that cost 541,800 francs ($608,300).


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