NEW YORK – What a great auction at Sotheby’s Wednesday night. To begin with, prices for the wonderfully eclectic jewels of Mrs. Charles Wrightsman soared and totaled $15.5 million when it was done. Bids poured in from collectors around the world hoping to acquire a unique piece distinguished in provenance as having belonged to a true connoisseur. The sale ended with jewels from the collections of Estée Lauder and Evelyn H. Lauder sold for the benefit of The Breast Cancer Research Foundation. It was an unbeatable combination – great jewels, great names and great cause. And the result was a total of $22,248,250.
The true test of a good auctioneer is to keep the tempo upbeat and the room engaged when a sale is not going particularly well. On Wednesday night, bidders needed no help from me as the audience pushed prices significantly past pre-sale estimates, calling out larger bid increments than I asked for, trying to prevail over their competition - in the room, on the phone and, increasingly, bidding on the internet through our website using BIDnow. It was kind of an out-of-body experience as I dispatched each lot. I knew each piece intimately and marveled at the premium people were willing to pay for a great stone or a unique design. I really do love the dynamic of an auction where everything is possible and estimates are only that – estimates. It is for the market, in the end, to decide what something is worth. It was the final lot of the evening, Evelyn H. Lauder’s Magnificent Fancy Intense Pink Diamond Ring, that achieved the highest price. It sold to jeweler Laurence Graff after a heated bidding war in the room and brought the final price to a remarkable $8.6 million, more than double the presale low estimate.
All in all it was a record-breaking night for Sotheby’s worldwide jewelry department - the Wrightsman, Lauder and Various Owner sales realized a total of $64.8 million – pushing our combined sale total for the year to more than $450 million. And who says jewelry isn’t ART?