Over half the year has passed already and we're feeling like it has only just started. The pandemic has thrown lives and businesses into chaos. It has been difficult to write about jewellery at such a time but now, as everything starts to open up it seems like a good time to reflect on what we have observed thus far.
We did not know what to expect when Italy went into lockdown in early March. It seemed like jewellery would be furthest from people's minds but it was interesting to note that as soon as lockdown happened in Italy we saw significant sales from buyers who were right in the middle of it. This theme continued as we watched online only auctions at Sotheby's, whose fine jewellery sales during March raised a total of $6.1 million. In April a Cartier Tutti Frutti bracelet, raised a staggering $1.3 million, smashing its estimate of $600,000-$800,000. Also in April we saw a stunningly beautiful 1930s Cartier Aquamarine tiara sell for €582,800, smashing its €34-€70k estimate. Both these Cartier pieces were rare and extraordinary jewels. Funnily enough "The Cartiers" by Francesca Cartier Brickell was our lockdown read. It's a fabulous book and can only help make vintage Cartier more desirable.
Courtesy of Sotheby's
Courtesy of Dorotheum
So, why did this all happen and what does it mean? Quite simply we think people turn to jewellery in times of crisis. The gold price which swung from a low of $1,452.05 to $2,067.16 per troy oz substantiates this but doesn't tell the whole story. We think that there is an emotional element to all this buying. Jewellery quite literally is forever. Pieces can be handed down for centuries. Jewellery has also existed forever, since men could make tools and beat metal into shapes. So jewellery must carry significant meaning to human beings. It's not superfluous. We think that some of the activity is due to this intrinsic "forever" quality of jewellery. Whatever jewellery you buy now will exist after the pandemic is over. And its value seems to go up as everything else seems to falter. Gold is usually seen as a hedge investment but probably the same could be said for fine pre-owned jewellery, it's just difficult to track as each piece is unique.
So whether we're hedging against economic uncertainty or crystalizing a "forever sentiment" it seems as though fine jewellery provides us with the perfect vehicle. Brands that will always stand the test of time are Tiffany & Co, Cartier, Van Cleef and Bulgari but it is also worth noting that stand out Antique pieces; Art Deco diamond bracelets, Old Cut diamond rings and Retro tank bracelets are also very desirable.