Why is the Jewelry Industry obsessed with one ring?

The wedding season maybe over for some but as you read this someone is looking for a ring for their significant other to propose marriage. A one time event that the jewelry industry focuses on. A little strange so many jewelers chase after one type of customer when there are other segments of consumers that may be a better fit to pursue. I talk about why there is this focus on the wedding industry and see what may need to come and shake up this long standing tradition for the jewelry industry.

It sounds strange coming from a jewelry blogger but here it goes, I don’t like looking at engagement rings. Solitaire, round, halo, or whatever, if it’s in the bridal section I tend to pass by without a second glance. It’s not that I lack an appreciation for the institution or romance. I love a good rom-com as much as the next person. I’ve even caught myself referencing scenes from iconic movies in my posts. I also love to see the rings of friends and read about celebrities’ engagements, but I don’t browse the bridal section on my own.

Could not pass up some Lord of the Rings references!

Recently I attended a wedding of a close friend. The ceremony was beautiful, the couple was happy, and the food was phenomenal, and it got me thinking why is it that so much emphasis is put on one ring? The ring my friend has is a gorgeous halo ring in white gold. It is a beautiful and costly ring, but it is only one ring and that is all you should need in theory. Yet everyone that I see in the jewelry industry has a bridal collection hoping to sell that one-time ring to a couple. Why is that? The simple reason I get is ‘most people get married’, ‘it is the bread and butter of the jewelry industry’. Many designers start out creating engagement rings for friends, so I see that argument. For the next few months I am going to be looking at the trends in weddings and engagement rings to see how much of this obsession is justified and if there are ways to look at this industry differently that can help you own business or brand.

Gollum isn’t the only one obsessed with a ring!

Wedding Industry is a Red Ocean

If you have taken a business strategy course or enjoy books on market strategy you may have come across a book titled Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim. If not, then I would recommend it. The core idea of the book is that a business can be faced with times where they enter an industry that is highly competitive or there is no competition but over time the competition enters, and you find your business struggling to differentiate itself from other similar businesses. If either is the case, you are in a red ocean. The opposite is a blue ocean where you have a unique product with little competition because your brand and product are so unique that few can compete with your way of doing business. You want to get to a blue ocean for your business.

What is it about it an engagement ring?

Or Is it?

An article came out today by JCK looking at reports of Amazon entering the fine jewelry industry with a line called For Keeps. It is another interesting read to see how the jewelry industry reacts to an outside company that is not a traditional jewelry company. You get statements about the need to create an experience versus Amazon’s more basic way of shopping. I think the jewelry industry needs this shake up. If Amazon enters the industry I hope more jewelers will start looking at data gathering and analysis more seriously. What does this have to do with the wedding industry? My guess is that by the name Amazon is trying to enter the wedding industry. Where could they find their blue ocean by doing what they do best. As I have been researching the wedding industry on statistic stood out to me in relation to the Amazon issue. The Engagement Ring Bible pulled some statistics from the Knot on 2017 engagement rings stating, ‘Grooms spend an average of 3.5 months looking for the perfect engagement ring and will look at 26 different rings before purchase’. My follow ups are how much of that is online? I know it would be much easier to compare brands, styles, prices etc. in one place. Know a place online like that for other items? I thought so. I’ll be watching to see if Amazon does launch a collection, right now there is nothing official from the company

Found this online and it was too good to pass up! Expect to see this again as I follow up on Amazon’s possible entry into the jewelry industry.

What’s Next

I will not only look at wedding statistics but also trends and topics for discussion such as traditions and the changes affecting this institution. Please send me an email or leave a comment if there is something that you would be interested in learning more about on this subject. Also prepare for a few more Lord of the Rings references! If weddings aren’t your thing, I’ll be posting other analysis pieces as well, looking at rebranding efforts by companies and auctions that happen. Thank you for reading Data in the Rough and I look forward to posting again next week!

Michele della Valle Online Results: How Sotheby’s Fared in this New Venture

Sotheby’s first online auction dedicated to a single designer, Michele della Valle ended last Monday. In this post I will look at the results of the auction and what can be learned.

Non si può mai attraversare l’oceano se non si ha il coraggio di perdere di vista la riva.

The above saying in English is: You can never cross the ocean until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.  That saying feels right when talking about the recent online fine jewelry auction held by Sotheby’s.  I will look at the sold versus unsold items and their statistics as a whole, then break it down by type and finally look at some individual pieces that did well at the auction. Also read my predictions and thoughts before the results here.

Sold vs. Unsold (All)

Out of the 111 items designed by Michele della Valle for this online auction only 66 sold. The percentage was 59% sold, 41% unsold. So over half meet the reserve and were sold. The items bid on meet reserve, but what were some of the basic statistics like average dollars of the sold item or number of bids? Below is a table answering that. Note dollars in Swiss Francs (CHF).

The average item sold for 7,884 and had about 6 bids. The most frequent price that sold was 7,500 and the lot had only 2 bids.

To get more detailed we need to look at the results by type.

Sold vs. Unsold (by type)

Above is a table with the counts of lots by type. Earrings were the biggest category at 44 out of 111 lots, next were brooches, then rings. Rings did very well, all but one lot were sold. A table below looks at it by percentage.

Only 38% of brooches sold, earrings saw 32% of their lots unsold. I’m looking more closely at types with ten or more lots to get a better feel of the category. I also looked at the min/max dollars for the sold lots.

Earrings had the largest range, going for as low as 3,000 CHF up to 27,500 CHF.

So, what were some of these high priced items?

Lot with the highest bid

That was a pair of earrings, lot 22, that sold for 27,500 CHF

Lot with the most bids

Lot 14 that had 24 bids, a blue topaz ring.

Piece highest above estimate

There are pieces that are unexpected in what they go for. In this auction a few types did better than others. A table with the break out below.

The rings did the best overall, being 1.6 times higher than the estimates. Earrings were next at 1.33 times. The piece that did better than estimated was lot 97, a pair of earrings that sold for 8.2 times above what Sotheby’s estimated. The final price sold was 21,500 CHF. The estimate was between 1800-2600.

Final thoughts

Obviously, the sale could have gone better, more pieces sold, bids higher, etc. Sotheby’s did a lot right in promoting this auction; they put the auction in their emails and had a video highlighting some pieces. What do I think they could have done better? Educating people on who Michele della Valle is and why his work is something that should be collected. Town and Country just put out about designers to collect, giving some context to where the market is going.

 

From my quote above, somethings you take those risks and swim out alone. Sometimes those risks work out and other times you need a life guard to steer you to a better path. If you are looking for some guidance in your small business strategy send me an email (data.inthe.rough@gmail.com). Let me know what you’re thinking of trying or challenges you are facing. Until then thank you for reading and I hope you return soon for more Data in the Rough!

Results of Skinner Important Jewelry: Looking at Signed Pieces

Skinner Important Jewelry Auction results are in! There are many ways to look at the data. In the interest of time I am focusing on how signed pieces did versus the unsigned pieces offered. I will look at my previous observations on Evelyn Clothier and Aldo Cipullo, the top 5 items above their estimate, and overall signed versus unsigned.

 

A look back at my highlights

In my previous post, Evelyn Clothier had the most signed pieces at the Skinner Important Jewelry Auction. So how did her pieces do? Below is a table showing how her pieces sold at auction.  Note results do not include buyer’s premium.

Evelyn’s pieces did well 18 out of 19 pieces sold. The piece that did better than its estimate, Lot 220 the gem-set necklace I highlighted in the other post. This necklace was only expected to bring in around $7,000 it brought in $18,450, 2.6 times better than the high estimate.

Gem-set Necklace, Evelyn Clothier

A little over half exceeded the high estimate. The item that didn’t sell was also the only bracelet offered by the designer. I tried it on and thought it was a sweet piece, so that was a little surprising.

The results of the next designer shocked me, Aldo Cipullo. The monkey and unicorn brooches that I was excited to see, were beautiful in person. A few pictures of them below.

 

Neither of these pieces sold. I really thought the unicorn would with an estimate between $5,000-$7,000, seemed reasonable. The monkey I thought was a bit too high, estimated for $15,000-$20,000. Still the unique design I thought would drive some interest.

Included is a table with designers that had more than 1 piece at auction and what percent sold.

 

There are several designers that either sold 100% or they sold less than half. David Webb had 3 pieces but only 1 sold. Are there other designer’s above that you wonder about the results?

 

Top 5 Lots

What were the top 5 items that did better than estimated? The top item was Lot 24, an Art Nouveau Turquoise Necklace.

Below is the table with the details.

If you notice only one designer made this list. One pair of Opal earrings by Andrew Grima. Andrew Grima has done well at past auctions in London and New York. Seeing his name make it in the top 5 did not surprise me. I was intrigued that a few more signed pieces did not do better than the unsigned ones.

18kt Gold and Opal Earrings, Andrew Grima

Signed versus Unsigned

How important is it that a piece is signed? The best answer is it depends. For example, pieces attributed to a designer, especially a well known designer like David Webb, that are not signed would not be as valuable to a collector. For Skinner the unsigned pieces sold better than the signed ones. I broke the numbers into three parts.

Top: The actual numbers, there were more unsigned pieces than signed. There were also more sold than unsold.

Middle: Percent of Sold and Unsold, overall 80% of the items sold, which is where the number is usually at from previous auctions.

Bottom: Percent of Signed/Unsigned lots sold vs unsold, Of the Sold Items 60% were unsigned, for Unsold the percentage is the same at 59% for unsigned pieces.

Platinum and Diamond Pendant/Brooch, set with old European-, full-, and rose-cut diamonds

So are unsigned pieces better? Skinner has lots of lots that are antique from Edwardian to Art Nouveau at their auctions, these pieces are usually unsigned and highly desirable for their design and beauty. The other side is that the signed pieces are not always as flashy as pieces from Christie’s or Sotheby’s, they are a bit more every day.

 

Conclusion

Storytelling is important. The designer pieces, especially Evelyn Clothier’s could have sold much better if there was a bit of context about the designer and pieces. This 19-piece collection was the perfect opportunity to spotlight the designer and make her story known. This collection was also owned by the same person. A talk or interview from the owner on what their relationship was and why so many pieces were bought, would have been one idea I would have tried to get more interest. I feel Skinner dropped the ball on this unique opportunity to focus on an American woman designer that has won several design awards and had her jewelry used on the red carpet. If you struggle to think of ways to differentiate yourself or your product contact me for ways to break out of the same old gimmicks and try something else.

 

Thank you and I look forward to you reading more from Data in the Rough!

 

Evelyn Clothier heads list for September Important Jewelry at Skinner Auctions

It’s that time again! In a previous post I mention some of auction houses having only online fine jewelry this month. Skinner Auctions in Boston will be having their auction and preview of Important Jewelry this month. Looking through the lots online before going to the preview, I noticed quite a few by Evelyn Clothier. It felt like she was the most listed designer in the 355 lots from this auction. Being an analyst, I had to see if that was right. I did not go through counting all the designers by myself, I used a little help from excel to get a tally. The list below of designers with 2 or more items in the auction:

Looks like this time I was right! Evelyn Clothier has the most pieces at auction in this sale at 19! Next is Cartier at 11. Evelyn Clothier is not the only new name for me I have not recalled much from Arthur King or Barbara Anton. Seeing Evelyn Clothier name so much I had to look again at all her pieces and find out a little more about her.

Evelyn Clothier, Fine Art of Award-Winning Design

That title was not made by me, Evelyn Clothier’s website lists her numerous AGTA Spectrum Awards.  She also had her jewelry sold in Bergdorf Goodman. The website has her pieces listed and a place to contact her. I did not find too much else about her like how long she has been in the business to what inspires her.

I did look to see if she had been sold at Skinner before, she had one piece at the Dec. 2011 auction. A pair of Aquamarine earrings that went unsold. A side note: these earrings were the winners of the 2011 AGTA Spectrum Awards. (All photos courtesy of Skinner Auctions)

A few of Evelyn Clothier’s designed jewels that will be sold on September 25th, that I am excited to see:

18kt Gold and Enamel Brooch, Evelyn Clothier
Gem-set Necklace, Evelyn Clothier
18kt Gold, Plique-a-Jour Enamel, and Diamond Brooch, Evelyn Clothier
18kt Gold and Plique-a-Jour Enamel Dragonfly Brooch, Evelyn Clothier

A few more thoughts on the auction

I’m eager to see how all the pieces do. Two pieces that are on the top of my list to see are both by Aldo Cipullo. They are of a unicorn and monkey made in the 1970s.

18kt Gold, Enamel, and Gem-set Unicorn Brooch, Aldo Cipullo
18kt Gold, Gem-set, and Enamel Brooch, Aldo Cipullo

 

Let me know what you think of the pieces. Have you heard or seen some of Evelyn Clothier’s work? What other designers listed would you like to know more about? Follow my Instagram over the weekend as I go to Skinner Auctions to see these pieces up close! And return to see my analysis of this auction on Data in the Rough!

Instagram changes since my first 1000 followers and what can be learned

Marketing sites and businesses keep talking about how changes to the Instagram algorithm have hurt engagement. In this post I will look at how I got to my first 1000 followers shortly before the changes took place and how my strategy to grow my following has changed since.

Looking back at all my posts it’s hard to believe I have been on Instagram over 2 ½ years! I started in early September of 2015 to help a designer start and grow her Instagram account. I knew I needed my own account to run my own experiments and see what would be best for my client in the interest of time and resources. I have since ended my working relationship with her, but my account has continued growing. I will start by how I got to my first thousand, strategies that can be helpful as you look to improve your brand.

Getting to 1000:

Once I got to 1000 followers it felt like no time at all, but it took me 4 months from the day I started until I finally got to 1000. The amount of posts was 215. It was in January and I was a bit discourage that I wasn’t growing as quickly as I hoped. I was at a little over 700 followers and decided to post on a rainy Sunday afternoon this Tiffany necklace designed by Paloma Picasso in the 1980s.

Tiffany gemstone necklace posted on my IG that got me to 1000 followers, seen at Christie’s in December 2015

One feature Instagram had was a trending hashtag section. I looked at the page where the trending hashtags were and saw #rainysunday was trending, so I worked that into my caption picking out the most bold and colorful piece to chase away those clouds! Posting around three in the afternoon I knew I’d get some likes, but I never anticipated that over the next couple of days I would get over 500 likes and about 300 followers which got me from 700 to 1000 almost overnight! I realized that my post had made it on the explore page which is why the jump in interest!

Paloma Picasso wearing her design for Tiffany, taken in 1980s. photo from Paris Vogue

Strategies to use now:

Since the changes I can no longer like pictures in real time of when they were posted unless I follow them and get notified when they post. Also, some accounts never make it to the top of my feed. So how do I try and improve my odds:

  1. Follow brands because you like their content not because you hope they follow you. I made the mistake when I first started of following accounts of people or brands that I thought would like me. The problem their feed was not always what I enjoyed seeing so I had to eventually unfollow and look at engaging with account that may never follow me but make my account a pleasant place to go to. Also, to note don’t follow them just because they follow you. They may like your posts, but you may not respond to their content as well, it comes down to engaging with accounts that resonate with you.
  2. Look at what your posting and research hashtags to use that are relevant. Mixing up your hashtags is a better way to grow your following and be in front of new people. Using the same ones can be too predictable especially if you are selling online. Look at what your posting and who maybe interested versus trying to advertise it’s for sale.
  3. Make Instagram friends. Too many small businesses and solopreneurs rely on friends, families or groups they belong to for engagement. The best compliments have been from people I have never meet but find my posts beautiful and interesting. I have even been able to meet with some of my new friends who give me inspiration and different ways to better serve my following.
  4. Experiment with different posts and times. I have read and gone to workshops about growing your following. Everything from running an IG contest to posting more about you as a person. Some ideas are helpful others I tried have failed miserably (I’ll share stories and lessons learned in later posts). For posts use the edits IG has with their photos. I try to make sure my photos are sharp, in focus and the colors vibrant to stand out better to my followers.
  5. Do not get too discouraged with slow growth or followers that leave you in the early stages. When first starting I got a lot of account follows and unfollows in hopes of growing their numbers. Instagram is still a game to many and if you worry too much about winning or losing you’ll miss the important reason for this platform to be social. Again, don’t follow just because they follow you, refer to tip #1.

 

There are plenty of other ways you can improve. Here is an article I read on Hootsuite about ways to improve your account with the changes to the Instagram algorithm. I also read an article by Recode posted early this month, that stated that your Facebook friends can play into what accounts are one top when you log in. I do not follow a lot of my Facebook friends on IG since I want to keep more focused on my business with IG.

Even though it feels harder sometimes, I am still having good success on IG growing my followers and engagement. If you would like a more personal session to find ways to improve your IG please send me an email at Data.inthe.Rough@gmail.com Also feel free to make a comment below about something you’d like to understand or an observation about your experiences with Instagram! Thank you for reading my post, I hope you return soon! Also a bonus the matching earrings to that bold Tiffany necklace, because you can’t have a statement necklace without some statement earrings!!

Matching earrings to Tiffany necklace sold at Christie’s in December 2015!

Faberge at Auction: Lessons to Learn from Two Faberge Flowers hidden in a Shoe Box

Two Faberge flowers fell short of achieving a high estimate by Antique Roadshow when they hit the auction block in June. The article below looks at what key analysis were missed and trends that should have been focused on for future consideration.

Study the past if you would define the future. This quote by Confucius sums up my thoughts about what direction I am going and hope to be going. Digging deeper on issues always have ‘why’ questions that follow, why do I like this, why am I doing this and why do I want to continue this? Some of my whys are answered by looking back at what I love and why I loved it then and now. For the focus of this article I am looking at Faberge in the news, my all time favorite jeweler. A few weeks ago Hanson Auction in the United Kingdom sold two Faberge flowers. Not exactly news worthy at first glance but the story of how the pieces came to auction is worth a mention.

 

The two flowers are of a Dwarf Morning Glory and Barberry, that the owner had wrapped in a tea towel and stored in a shoe box! Pieces that sold for 340,000 British pounds ($451,1111) were tucked away in a small box for 40 years! Why did the owner wait until now to bring these pieces to light? The article in the Daily Mail claimed the man came to have the pieces looked at after seeing an Antiques Road Show episode in March where a similar item was valued at over 1 million British pounds.

Dwarf Morning Glory by Faberge sold at Hanson Auction June 11 for 180,000 pounds (hammer price). photo from Hanson Auctions

 

Barberry by Faberge sold at Hanson Auction June 11 for 160,000 pounds (hammer price). photo from Hanson Auctions

Initially these flowers were predicted to bring in 500,000 pounds by the Antique Roadshow but did not make that estimate. Hanson had a better estimate of 100,000-150,000 pounds for each flower. Why did these flowers fall a little short of the Antique Roadshow estimate? My theory: the Antique Roadshow didn’t look at recent trends in the industry and the seller didn’t take a good look at the market. Examples in an article by ArtNet News cite how auctions at both Sotheby’s and Christie’s either had the bids for the Faberge Flowers fall short of the Antique Roadshow estimate or did not sell at all.

Faberge flower estimated at 1 million pounds ($1.27 million) by Antique Roadshow in 2017. photo from ArtNet News

For the seller, besides the trends in selling Faberge flowers he should have explored the auction houses. Hanson auctioned the flowers off, but those two flowers were the only two Faberge items in the entire June Auction. Was that the right auction house for this sale? Should the seller have gone to Sotheby’s, Christie’s or Bonham’s to try and see if they would be better to sell the flowers? Sotheby’s just had an auction of Russian Works of Art, Faberge and Icons on June 5th.

 

There are other questions to be answered but those are the two main ones for me. I enjoy analyzing the jewelry industry and am growing my business to do more consulting on social media, strategy and business investments. For anyone regardless of industry or where you are in your career one piece of advice from the story above is don’t hide some of those treasures or dreams you are holding on to. I have held onto some of my personal goals for too long and need to start making things happen! You can too!

 

Return later as I pursue more wisdom from Faberge and go back to what inspires me so I can build a strong business and help you find ways to improve yours!   As always thank you for reading my posts on Data in the Rough!

Fred Leighton: Auction of the Jeweler who owned a Flower Shop

I learned a lot over the long weekend viewing the auctions for April. If you follow my Instagram account, you will see posts of jewelry that has been auctioned as well as pieces coming up that I got to see and try on! Although I learned a lot about the jewelry one piece of information left the biggest impression on me and that was the auction of Fred Leighton’s personal collection. This man was a jeweler to the stars. I never got the chance to enter his shop while he owned it but I got to see some of his celebrity pieces up close when Fred Leighton came to Dorfman’s in Boston.

Looking at the auction book for a little more about his life I came across an interesting insight into his life that resonated with me. On page 8 of the auction catalogue the first line of the second paragraph reads, “After opening a florist shop in Los Angeles, Mr. Leighton returned to New York in the early 1960s and purchased a shop specializing in Mexican crafts, silver and folk pieces on MacDougal Street in the West Village.” This stood out to me because I don’t come from having a background in the jewelry industry. I have no relatives that I was aware of that did anything with the jewelry business. I have a background in business but a love for jewelry. It was refreshing to see someone start out on one path and transition to another like Mr. Leighton. Breaking into an industry can be difficult. For those that follow my blog I have been sporadic with my postings over the year.

For 8 months I was unemployed and recently started a new job. It has nothing to do with jewelry which can have its good and bad points. Trying to find a job that blends your passion with your skills (math in my case) can be a challenge. Those that do not have those skills can look down on those with ‘less creative’ talents. For the next few weeks I plan to highlight designers and businesses that have done better at mixing art and science. I will focus on those with a less traditional background or those that have both a head for numbers and artistic flair.

This post is focusing on Leighton and his auction. As I went through the preview at Sotheby’s in New York City, I was struck by how many were coming to find one last hidden treasure that Leighton was holding back. I watched a few dealers going over necklaces and rings with loupes taking notes of the lots they liked. The impression I got was that many of these pieces meant something more than money to Mr. Leighton. I came across a set of Van Cleef & Arpels cat brooches with coral stones. These were so small and not at all like the animals you see now.

Aren’t they precious?

One of the associates told me nobody that day had even looked at them. I obviously took them out to see. I love cats and couldn’t bare the thought of these cute gems going unwanted. They did sell so some one was paying attention. But not all of Leightons jewelry sold. I looked at the total auction and divided the lots by jewelry and other (furniture, paintings, etc).

Break down of lots for Fred Leighton Auction at Sotheby’s

The top table is by the number of lots and the second table is in percentages. There were 229 lots offered 95 (41%) of the lots were jewelry; 134 (59%) were other items. Overall 84% of the items sold. By category jewelry did not do as well in % sold as the other items. But what about items that sold far above the estimate? Well I looked at that too!

Of the lots sold on average the non-jewelry category did better. Leighton not only had an eye for jewelry but also furniture, paintings and other beautiful, unique objects.  The top 5 jewelry items that performed the most above their high estimate (buyer’s premium included are below).


To see a better view of the chart above click:

Top-5-lots-Fred-Leighton-Jewelry-Auction-Sothebys 

I was surprised at what did so well and what did not sell. This snake bracelet of gold and rubies did not sell, but a pair of turquoise shell earrings by Leighton estimated to go between $600-800 sold for $6,875. These pieces were pretty but also quirky and many of them fun.

I remember seeing the documentary the September Issue, about getting the fall publication by Vogue put out, and watching some of the deleted scenes. My favorite part of the documentary was the deleted scene with Andre going to Fred Leighton’s shop to see some of his jewelry highlights. It starts with Fred Leighton himself waving some beautiful vintage fans in front of the camera and heading over to talk to Andre in more detail about the fans he is looking at. Leighton in smiling and singing as he makes his way to the editor. Enjoying himself through out the short scene. Fred Leighton did not come from a background in jewelry and in some ways, I think that was a strength. He had an eye for jewelry but was a business man by trade.

Above was how his jewelry was laid out in the cases. Leighton had miniature replicas of Asian inspired furniture that he had made. His family lent it to Sotheby’s because they did not know what to do with it or even if they wanted to keep it. Mr. Leighton, I have a feeling would have been pleased to know that his miniature furniture was a hit! I asked an associate about what would happen to these props, after the sale and with the interest that the public was showing they too may soon be on the auction block at Sotheby’s. Be on the lookout! Before I conclude I will let you see what the top 3 other items that performed above expectations.

Yes, that looks like a gold foot. Not sure if the auction house was off on the estimate or they had misprints, but Leighton did have some unique tastes and others liked it. He did not follow trends but created them and found items that match the style and quality that he wanted to be known for. I hope you will return soon as I get back into posting more on my own personal journey to try and blend my love of jewelry with my analysis skills. Please comment below or send an email if you would like to share parts of your own career journey. As the saying goes, it’s not where you came from but where you are going that counts. Data in the Rough is back!

 

 

 

 

Analysis: Town and Country 2018 Jewelry Awards

We are in award season right now. Movie and music awards have been reported on. The Super Bowl has been played in a winner take all game. Even the jewelry industry bestowed some awards. These awards were acknowledged in Town and Country’s February issue, the first issue to have a jewelry awards section. My question is for all award ceremonies, why? These results can be subjective. A bad call from a referee or hint of cheating leaves questions for the fans and some fierce debates. Music and movies are like art, what determines the best story or actor? I feel like jewelry is the same way. If you are not listed in Town and Country are you less of a jeweler? So why did T&C try this and what can it mean for you as a reader or business person?

 

I have a few theories as to the benefit, that I will conclude with. First, I will look at T&C’s explanation of the creation of these awards. Then look at the types of awards and follow this by addressing the business side of T&C. I am focusing only on the current issue, February 2018.

 

Why T&C created these awards

If you are like me, when I get a magazine that has an article I want to read I go straight to that page. If you did that with this article, then you would see these awards were made to acknowledge the year’s most notable jewelry moments. A clear explanation of what to expect in the section but not the why. I went back to the letter from the editor to see what they had to add.  Stellene Volandes, T&C’s Editor in Chief, focused her letter on the next generation and how the readers used the magazine to discover ‘jewelry they should collect now to hand down later.’ A nice thought but one I look at skeptically given tastes and trends that differ between generations. I think a better reason for these awards is to highlight the industry but is it purely for the readers?

 

What were the ‘Award’ Categories

There were 18 categories:

  • Red Carpet Award of the Year
  • Collections of the Year
  • Stones of the Year
  • Philanthropists of the Year
  • Diamonds of the Year
  • Green Award for Sustainability
  • Watches of the Year
  • Retail Innovation of the Year
  • Gold Designs of the Year
  • Breakthroughs of the Year
  • Collaborations of the Year
  • Jewelry Champions of the Year
  • Pearls of the Year
  • Innovations of the Year
  • Events of the Year
  • Rediscovery of the Year
  • Fashion House High Jewelry
  • Legends of the Year

I like that they had about retail innovation and collaborations, topics that need to be explored more in the industry. There were three winners for each category. So, you are looking at 54 winners. 54 designers/businesses that will get some recognition. But who sees it?

David Webb, Gold Hammered Earrings, Webb won in Gold Designs of the Year

T&C Business Side

The T&C media kit outlines the reader. They average 50 years of age and mostly female. For a business looking to reach a range of ages I would press for more details and a better breakdown of who is reading the publication.

My Opinions

So here we are at my analysis. After a brief look at the magazine and awards I think another piece is advertising. Of the 138 pages (front and back cover included), 54 pages were dedicated to advertisements. Of the 54 pages of ads, 33 were for jewelry. See the table below:

Over half of the Ads were for jewelry. I know T&C has lots of jewelry advertisements, but I would like to see if this issue boosted that group of Ads. For those paying for placement in the magazine I would be asking some of the questions above about what reach this would have and how it would benefit my business.

Alexandra Mor, won Innovators of the Year, for her use of the Tagua seed. Ring pictured is made of a Tagua seed with a pearl in center.

I have a few more points I could go into, but I want to stop here and get some feedback from you. Have you seen the issue? What were your thoughts? Do you think this is something Town and Country should continue to do? Return in the next week as I get back on a schedule of regular posting after my holiday hiatus. Thank you for reading Data in the Rough!

Analysis of Audrey Hepburn Auction at Christie’s

Analysis of Audrey Hepburn Auction at Christie’s

 

‘I have learned how to live, how to be IN the world and OF the world, and not just to stand aside and watch. And I will never, never again run away from life. Or from love, either.’ ~ Audrey Hepburn (Sabrina 1954)

Remember watching Sabrina and hearing Ms. Hepburn’s voice speak these lines as she is writing to her father? Maybe you remember the first sign of her up in the morning peering into the Tiffany window with her long black dress, pearls and sunglasses in Breakfast at Tiffany’s? No matter the movie Hepburn became that part and it was fantastic! In late September her family auctioned off some memorabilia, personal items and photographs of the late Audrey Hepburn at Christie’s in London. Another Hollywood legend had her items auctioned that week too, you can read my analysis here.

I had some assumptions about this auction and in my analysis, you can draw your own opinions about the sale. Let’s start off with the types of items sold and location of the auction.

Types of Lots

I condensed the lots to a total of 10 types/ categories to better analyze. Fashion is for clothes, outfits and fashion accessories are shoe, hats, gloves, etc. Personal accessories included luggage, makeup cases, etc.

In contrast to Vivien Leigh’s auction, Hepburn’s was more focused on her Hollywood persona. Many of her lots were photographs and scripts from various movie roles. Which is why I was disappointed in the location of the auction.

Location

The sale and preview resided in London, England. There was not even a tour of Hepburn’s key photos and movie memorabilia.  Hepburn was Hollywood royalty, even though she lived abroad I think there was a devoted enough fan base in the United States for it to have made sense to hold the auction here instead of London. There was interest worldwide naturally but in Hepburn’s case not enough to sell all her items like Vivien Leigh.

Sold versus Unsold

Note: I am only looking at the live auction not the separate online auction that went into early October.

Below is a bar graph of the sold and unsold lots by type.  The gray bar to the right with the percentage marks how much out of 100% did not sell.

Only 4 categories had a lot or two that did not sell, those were personal accessories, jewelry, fashion accessories and fashion. To get a better idea of the amount which was small, I have a table with the count of what sold versus unsold by lot.

You can see the biggest types sold were Photographs, followed by Documents/Scripts. This auction was not Hepburn the person but of the movie star. Jewelry had the highest number of items unsold (to be fair it is only 3 items). So, what went unsold and why?

Unsold Lots

Below are the 8 unsold lots with type, lot number and description.

I am focusing on the jewelry for the interest of this post.

Unsold Jewelry

Hepburn’s collection was of costume jewelry except for a few items I will mention later, so the amount it would sell for was not expected to be extremely high. I was a little surprised to see these 3 unsold until I looked at the pearl necklace lots, they are just strands of costume pearls, very basic with no special sentiment tied to them. The colored glass bead set was one of the first lots up. I loved the colors of this set!

A closer examination saw how deteriorated they were and would need major restoration if possible. Something to think about when listing, is this piece in good condition or is there significance to the piece that can be translated to a story? So, what did sell?

Top Lots at Auction

Hepburn’s items still did very well of the 246 that did sell 90% were above the high estimate and many were in the 1000’s for the percentage above calculation. I removed the buyer’s premium for the calculation of the percent above high estimate. Here are the top 5 lots (in USD).

No surprise Breakfast at Tiffany’s lots made it to the top. The jewelry item is my focus for this part.

The Always bangle was given to Hepburn by Steven Spielberg, for her role as Hap in her last film the 1989 film, “Always”. Spielberg wrote to Hepburn about how she inspired him and loved her in, “Wait Until Dark” and “Two for the Road”. After the filming her present Hepburn with this bangle inscribed on the inside, You are my “inspiration” Always, Steven. Outside is engraved, Audrey. It’s no wonder that this piece sold so well!

What were your favorite Audrey Hepburn movies? What items were you watching for the auction? If you were able to go to the viewing or have any comments, please share! I hope you enjoyed my take on the auction. Return soon for more Data in the Rough!

Depending on the Kindness of Strangers Pays Off for Vivien Leigh Auction

It’s been too long since my last post, but I have a lot of exciting things planned for this blog! First though I want to finish my analysis of the auctions I had in my last post. First is the Vivien Leigh auction held at the end of September at Sotheby’s in London.

It was an interesting auction to follow due to the star having passed away about 50 years ago and her last movie was over 52 years ago. Even though Ms. Leigh did not have as many films to her credit as other stars of her generation, the films she did were outstanding. I have not seen all her films but of the ones I have she made it feel as though she was meant for that role. Many remember her for Gone with the Wind but a favorite of mine was That Hamilton Woman, starring her then husband Laurence Olivier. Even in black and white her beauty and talent shown through. All photos courtesy of Sotheby’s

Caesar and Cleopatra, 1944, photo by Cecil Bateman

The auction had many of her personal possessions such as clothes, jewelry, photographs and furniture from the 1930s-1960s. This auction was interesting in how it tried to recapture the memories and life she led privately with her husband Olivier. It was clear that even though their marriage ended in 1961 after 20 years of marriage that she clearly continued to cherish the time they had together. So how did this translate to the bidders… very well in my opinion.

Leigh and Olivier

For my analysis I looked at US dollars and took out the buyer’s premium from the result when calculating how far above the estimate the lots went. My first thought when looking at the auction estimates was that they were too low. I was right all the 321 lots sold and of those 287 sold above the high estimate given by Sotheby’s.

I grouped the lots into types/categories, so you could get a better idea of how well the groups did.

Typically, when I look at auctions I see percentages above the estimate by lot go between 100%-600% for the top lots. For this auction the percentage was in the thousands. Below are the top 5 lots picked by percentage above the high estimate that they sold for not including buyer’s premium.

If you read my blog post before this, you would have seen that I picked the ‘eternally’ ring as a lot to watch. It is ridiculous to think that this ring given by Laurence Olivier to Leigh was only thought to go as high as $793. This tells me that the bidders were sentimental as well to this union.

Next was the Ship of Fools bracelet. I saw this movie recently, funny and sad all at once. Even though she is playing a bitter and aging beauty she is still charming, witty and striking as she had been in her previous movies. This bracelet went above the $198 to result in a sale of $7429.60, good for a costume bracelet.

Ms. Leigh was also a fan of art. She painted, collected and received artwork. Winston Churchill had been noted to give Ms. Leigh some of his own paintings as they were good friends. This piece is an illustration by Roger Furse around 1948 made of watercolor, pen and ink and pencil on paper. Vivien loved cats and I think this was a great tribute to those interests. This was only thought to bring in about $1982, its final price $67,540. As I said something was off with the predictions

Another jewelry lot consisting of a culture pearl brooch from 1964. Estimated to go to $159, sold for $5403.20.

Furniture, books, personal accessories such as dishes for entertaining was the biggest part of the auction.  The fifth lot to do better than its high estimate was a Pier Mirror made between 1765 and 1780.

You might be wondering what was the lot that brought in the most money? That was reserved for the former Prime Minister Winston Churchill whose oil on canvas board titled Study of Roses brought in $719,020.

It really is beautiful. Made in the 1930s by Churchill and given to Leigh as a gift in 1951.

One more lot to note is lot 307 the diamond bow brooch that had been shared countless times on social media.

It was estimated to go for about $46,253. It sold for $49,980 (without buyer’s premium). Sotheby’s predicted that correctly.

 

Takeaways

Sotheby’s London clearly underestimated the interest in Vivien Leigh. Four of the five lots to outperform their estimate were personal items to her. Three were jewelry and not high-end jewelry, a gold band, a costume bracelet and a small pearl brooch. The illustration was of her and what she loved: reading and cats, among many other things.

 

For those looking to bid in future auctions keep in mind the emotional value an item has that may not be accounted for by the auction house. For those selling an item if it has a story, tell it! Sotheby’s I’m sure got a bit of a surprise with the success of those lots. Maybe though if they had shared other lots stories on social media those items may have done better still! The diamond bow brooch was nice, but Ms. Leigh had so many items that were noteworthy, not for the value of the lot itself but of the value of the owner. Ms. Leigh led a complicated and in some instances tragic life but always was a professional who continues to leave an impression on the public to this day.

Leigh photograph taken in 1950s

There are so many other angles to look at this auction data. If you are interested in this return soon as I look at Aubrey Hepburn’s auction that occurred after Vivien Leigh’s at Christie’s London. Also, any comments about my thoughts or opinions on the auction or actress are welcomed. Please return for more Data in the Rough!