Vianvi Jewelry: High End Auctions: Part I: The Preview

I've always wondered what it would be like to attend one of those really high-end jewelry auctions like a Christies or Sothebys. Like, just how different are they from the local estate auctions we sometimes take in?

You can visit the Christies or Sothebys sites online and actually look at the results of past auctions. It's an eye-opener for sure. It’s amazing to see the kinds of dollars buyers pay at these auctions for items, in some cases, not that different from what we’re selling in our Ruby Lane and Ruby Plaza shops. It also makes us wonder what it'd be like if we were to consign some of our lovely pieces to an auction like that.

So, with that in mind, we recently attended a “preview” for an auction being held in Toronto on November 21, 2010. The company running this auction is Dupuis (you can find it online too). Like Christies and Sothebys, this is a high-class, high-end auction and we know we're not going to be able to afford anything there. For starters, their buyer’s premium is 25%. Most of the estate auctions we attend have a buyer's premium of 10 - 15%. Then, on top of that, living in Ontario, Canada, we also have to pay another 13% in taxes. So, if we were to bid and win, we have to add another 38% to the cost of the item. Do the maths. Ouch! Just imagine those buyers who win some of these pieces that are expected to fetch $200,000 - $300,000 before buyer’s premiums and any applicable taxes!

I don't know if you heard about that 16" Chinese vase (see photo) that was recently auctioned by Bainbridges in London? It was expected to fetch between $800,000 - $1.2million. Well, it went for $69.3 million!! Then there was the buyer's premium on top. Boggles the mind, doesn't it?

Well, not only do these auctions differ in the financial status of the buyers who attend, but they also differ in what goes on before the auction. At those local estate auctions we attend, the "preview" is done 60 - 90 minutes before the actual auction begins. For some of these auctions, if you don't get there early enough, you end up being jostled or find yourself squeezing in to see what's locked in the jewelry boxes ... if indeed they're worth looking at at all. At others, it's a bit more civilized: you arrive, sign in, are given a sheet with all the offerings listed, and you line up like you would at a cafeteria to get your turn to see what's on the menu. In both scenarios, patience is the key word.

This is vastly different from what we experienced at the Dupuis preview. For starters, the previewing period takes place over 2-3 weeks during business hours. When we arrived, we were "buzzed in" after being viewed, no doubt, by a small hidden camera somewhere. The inner foyer housed a lovely and very friendly receptionist seated behind a glass window. After some introductions, she told us to wait while she'd see if a "table" was ready. We had no idea what she meant. A few minutes later, she opened a door and we entered the "preview" room. There were about 10 tables set up. A "presenter" showed us a table, checked if we had the display catalogue, handed us a portfolio with GIA certificates and other very relevant information, and asked us to begin listing what we'd like to look at. Oh what fun! Here we were about to look at, handle, try on the most fabulous jewels, 8ct diamond solitaires, yellow and pink diamond rings worth a small fortune, glorious diamond and gemstone necklaces, Cartiers, Tiffanys, Victorian, Antique ... oh my goodness! It was like letting kids loose in a china shop. Well not quite ...

The presenter bought us 4-5 pieces at a time. We slipped rings on our fingers, draped bracelets over our wrists, held the necklaces around our necks and admired ourselves in the mirror, our eyes sparkling more than the jewels, our hearts sinking a little inside knowing we could never afford most of them. As we finished with each piece, the presenter took it away and brought us some more we'd listed. We were there for about 2 hours, starting to feel quite comfortable, chatting with the presenter and other previewers who were quite obviously more able to afford these glories than we were. We almost felt like we could afford to be there. They were all so friendly and accommodating. Of course, why not? To them, we were prospective bidders.

We came away from what was truly, a very pleasant experience. We had a list a mile long of what we’d love to win but who am I kidding! Just a couple of pieces would cost me more than I sell in 2 - 3 months! But we are planning to attend the event, which I am sure will be very exciting. I'll write about that in the sequel to this blog ie. Part 2: The Auction.

Apparently, bids come in from all over the world during the auction. They have operators manning 16 phones right in the room. I'm always way behind the bidding at auctions ie.. the auctioneers do their jabber so fast I never know what the last bid was. I have a tendency to hold up my card when the bidding's already way past what I thought it was or what I can spend so I find out the hard way when my daughter says "You know you just bought that, don't you?" And I say "I did? What did it cost me?" Groan ... !

There's snow forecast for Sunday: if it comes it'll be the first of the season. If there's too much snow, there's no way I'm going to the auction. Apparently, I'll be able to login and watch it and even bid online. That'll be a lot duller but a lot safer for me and I'm not just talking about driving in snow.

But if we do go, I'll tell you all about the big event in Part 2: The Auction.

Now, bring on the snow!

By Viga Boland

Vianvi Jewelry at Ruby Lane
http://www.rubylane.com/shops/vivijewels

Vianvi Jewelry at Ruby Plaza
http://www.rubyplaza.com/shops/vianvi


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