Whether it’s the ease of transactions or the plethora of choices, online shopping has changed the scope of retail. In the first quarter of 2016, e-commerce sales in the United States reached $92.8 billion, according to the U.S. Census Bureau of the Department of Commerce. It’s no surprise that the luxury auction sector is following this shift, too.
Industry leaders like Sotheby’s and Christie’s regularly host online auctions of treasured lots ranging from handbags to wine and all the fabulous fine art in between. For Palm Beachers, these sales provide the opportunity to obtain coveted items without having to travel to New York, London, or Geneva.
This month, Christie’s is offering collectors the world over the opportunity to snatch some stellar sparkles with its Online Jewels auction, taking place October 12-20. Christie’s began hosting online sales of jewelry in 2011 with its famous Elizabeth Taylor sale. “It was a great success not only because she was Elizabeth Taylor, but because a lot of people now transact online,” says Angelina Chen, who heads Christie’s jewelry e-commerce team. She explains that this platform allows purchasers to examine pieces from many angles and also evaluate size and scale. “You really can take a look at the piece quite carefully, probably even more so than in person,” she says. And whereas Christie’s jewelry sale takes place only twice a year, these online auctions happen far more frequently, usually about every six to eight weeks. This time, the sale will comprise more than 300 lots priced from around $2,000 to $20,000 and representing everyday items, iconic pieces, and antique finds, like this aquamarine and diamond pendant necklace (pictured above). You can access the full sale here.
Continue to page 2 for an exclusive interview with Chen.
PBI: What goes into determining which pieces are best suited for an online auction?
Chen: A lot of the pieces come in at a lower estimated price; below $20,000. But it’s not just a price proposition, it’s what the piece is. For example, if it’s a very iconic Love bangle or Cartier Panther brooch, it will be very easily recognizable, so it goes online. You also have typical jewelry, like a diamond line bracelet, that’s a very easy thing to purchase online since all the measurements and details are given right up front. I also have a line drawing so you can see the scale of the piece. While a long necklace might look like it’s just floating alone in a photograph, you can see [where it hits] when you put it on the line drawing.
What can bidders expect from the Online Jewelry auction scheduled for October?
We always have a great mix of the iconic—for example, I have a great Verdura link bracelet watch, which is always popular. Then I have a lot of Cartier pieces that are very iconic; the Panther collection has some great earrings I love. Then there’s a whole series of darling little animal brooches that are so collectible. And then you have the modern contemporary jewelry which everybody loves and can use constantly, and I think that’s the key – pieces that people are comfortable buying because it’s more or less everyday jewelry. We do have evening pieces, but less so – no magnificent pieces that you have to put in your safe deposit box.
David Webb Diamond and Jadeite Earrings.
Any pieces you’re particularly excited for?
For me, it’s like picking a favorite child – I get so distracted because there are so many lots. There’s probably going to be about 375 lots in the sale, and that’s another reason why online is so great…because you take your time to browse once, twice; you can filter it any way.
How are pieces delivered to the purchaser following an online auction?
Once you are successful as a bidder, you’ll get an email congratulating you and giving you the invoice. You check out online like you would if you buy something from Net-a-Porter. You use a credit card, check out online and [they typically deliver, but you can also pick the piece up in person].
What would be your top tips for online bidding?
I would make sure to register first, so take out a claim and take a look at the piece. I have pieces in that are priced very well. I would pop in a first bid just to make sure I can execute and then I’ll watch it and really pay attention during the last 48 hours. I’ve had people literally duke it out for a bracelet. It was frightful. I was just sitting there watching the bids go up; it was quite exciting, of course. And the consigner loved it.