The auction houses report robust online sales.
The coronavirus quarantine has prompted boredom, impatience and aggravation. But it has clearly not dampened rich buyers’ love for jewelry … at least not judging from the success of recent online jewelry auctions.
Some of these buyers may well be moneyed housewives who have become online addicts during the pandemic. Some may be skittish about the stock market and want to put their money in jewels. And others are active professional women used to doing their own research and buying.
“In my experience many of our private buyers are women who are successful in their own right and are passionate about jewelry,’’ said Nan Summerfield, the senior vice president and director of California for Doyle Auctions.
For devoted collectors, the quarantine may be an added incentive. “I am a jewelry alcoholic, especially when you can’t go out many places,” said Irina Maleeva, an actress who lives in Beverly Hills.
Ms. Maleeva, 60, likes working with the staff at Doyle, Bonhams and Heritage Auctions, and she enjoys bidding aggressively. “It is like when men play football,’’ she said. She is impatient to receive a Tiffany Angela Cummings gold rose-petal bracelet that she just bought online from Doyle for $5,312, during a May sale of jewelry that fetched the house $764,687 in total.
Doyle has chosen not to auction many of its more expensive jewels during the pandemic, but over the years Ms. Maleeva has bought other pieces including a multicolored white gold, moonstone, sapphire and diamond bracelet for $16,250.
“l like to wear things that have an impact,” she said.
Poised to pack considerable oomph is the Cartier Tutti Frutti bracelet: a confection of sapphires, rubies and emeralds in a platinum setting of diamonds, onyx and enamel that Sotheby’s sold on April 28to an undisclosed buyer for $1.34 million (including a 20 percent buyer’s fee), after listing an estimate of $600,000 to $800,000.
Sotheby’s has said that its online jewelry auctions have been surprisingly robust. The 12 online sales since March have generated $19.6 million well above estimates of $13 million to $18.1 million.
Tutti Frutti bracelets have done well for the house, with one selling three years ago in Hong Kong for $1.8 million, near its high estimate. Another owned by the late Evelyn Lauder, the former wife of Leonard Lauder, chairman emeritus of the Estée Lauder Companies, was sold for $2.165 million in December 2014, probably benefiting from the Lauder cachet.
“The prices in the recent sales were designed to be inviting,” said Catharine Becket, senior vice president and head of Sotheby’s “Magnificent Jewelry” division. “In decades of collections we know that conservative pricing yields the higher price and attracts more bidders.”
She added that 30 percent of the bidders at the auction were age 40 or under and a comparable percent were new to Sotheby’s.
The majority of pieces that Sotheby’s put up for sale at its April auction were under $20,000 because the house believes that buyers shopping in that price range are often what it calls “self-purchasers” — that is, bidders who don’t need to consult family members before they buy. But the house is now considering raising the lot values at coming auctions.
As for Christie’s, at an online auction that began June 16 and ends two weeks later, the house is auctioning a 28.86 carat VVS1 white, emerald-cut diamond ring with an estimate of $1 million to $2 million.