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!

Icons on Auction: What to look for this week

There was a saying were you a Jackie or a Marilyn? Well in the spirit of this week’s auctions I will alter the question by asking are you an Audrey or Vivien? This week in London the auctions of items belonging to Vivien Leigh and Audrey Hepburn are taking place. As the format goes I will mention a few items to look for, then check back for the analysis of the results later in the week.

Vivien Leigh

This auction focuses on the life of Vivian Leigh. The personal items include paintings, gifts, clothes and jewelry. You get a sense of her life and tastes through the auction being held at Sotheby’s on the 26th. If you follow fine jewelry on social media you may have seen this brooch belonging to Vivien.

This diamond bow brooch made in the 19th century is predicted to go between 25,000-35,000 British pounds or $33,038 – $46,253. I think that is a good estimate. The rest of the jewelry estimates feel low.

What to watch

For the jewelry, I have 3 items that I am particularly interested in the results, in addition to the brooch mentioned. The first the costume bracelet Vivien wore on the movie, Ship of Fools. The estimate is $132-$198. I know the gems and pearls are synthetic but it was in several scenes from her last film.

Next is the ‘Eternally’ ring, a token of love from the passionate affair and marriage of Leigh and husband Laurence Oliver. Inside is inscribed, Laurence Olivier Vivien Eternally. Thought to go for $529 – $793. I say there must be an error in the predictions but we’ll see.

 

Finally, my favorite piece, the chrysoberyl demi-parure. The stones are beautiful and the earrings are screw back! As most of her earrings are. This is what I’d buy if I could. The estimate is $5,286 — $7,929.

Audrey Hepburn

The auction of Ms. Hepburn’s items tell the story of an icon. Almost like opening a time capsule you are transported back remembering Roman Holiday and running around with Cary Grant in Charade! Lots of photos on sets, scripts, accessories and mostly costume jewels. Christie’s is focusing on her clothes and style for this auction being held on the 27th. An online auction is going on now and ends the 4th of October. I am just focusing on the live auction for this post.

A gift from Steven Spielberg to Audrey in 1989. A Tiffany & Co. bangle inscribed, You are my “ inspiration” Always, Steven. Original box and note included. Estimate $4,065 – $6,775.

Gripoix clip on earrings made of glass and faux pearl. They are unusual and colorful, set to sell between $1,355 – $2,032.

A paste tiara that was worn for the premiere of The Nun’s Story and in the film Two for the Road. I am always interested to see movie props on sale. What fans will spend is fun to guess and learn the result!

That is why this final piece, trying to keep it even since I pick four of Ms. Leigh’s items, is another item of interest. A movie prop from my favorite film of Hepburn’s Roman Holiday! A gold pendant, that I will have to rewatch the movie to see if I can get some good stills of. This would be my choice if I got only one item of her jewelry to keep.

Anyone following either or both sales? What was a favorite movie of either of these stars? I have been waiting many weeks for these sales and after tonight we will get to see what the world still thinks of these Hollywood legends. Return soon for the analysis only found on Data in the Rough!

 

Summertime Jewels: Analysis of Sotheby’s Online Auction

Summertime Jewels: Analysis of Sotheby’s Online Auction

Summer has its moments but I’m excited for the Fall auction season to begin! While I wait there are a few auctions happening now. I ran across an article the other day on Sotheby’s website about their Specialist Picks: 10 Stand Outs from Jewels Online. The jewels on auction belonged to Marjorie S. Fisher. For this post, I want to look at a few key points to learn more about the items on auction. Look at Sotheby’s top picks and then give you 5 of my favorites.

The auction as a whole

What to know:

  • 99 lots total
  • 18 are marked by a designer
  • 81 do not have a designer identified with it
  • Over 60% are estimating to sell between $5,000 -$12,000
  • Range of estimates $3,000-$60,000

Graph breaking down the types of jewelry by count of lots.

The biggest surprise is that only 1 ring is for sale. A colored diamond ring that is a top pick of Sotheby’s. Not sure if that is intentional or not. Besides that, the variety is very good in my opinion. Mrs. Fisher had an amazing collection so it is not hard to pick a great piece from all the options. So let’s see what the specialist picked!

Sotheby’s Picks

A nice variety of pieces but a little heavy on the diamonds and price. Two of the picks are estimating to go as high as $60,000 (the 2 lots at the end, 96 & 99). It is a good start for building a solid collection but Mrs. Fisher had some fun pieces that should also be considered.

My Picks

I went for more warm colors. It is summer! Corals, citrine and gold caught my eye. The Michele Della Valle coral and diamond necklace (lot 2) is all you need with a great summer dress to go out for evening events. My favorite piece is at the end, Lot 40 the Egyptian inspired ruby, emerald, sapphire, enamel and diamond brooch! Very unique even among Mrs. Fisher’s items.

The auction ends tomorrow so bid now! If you saw another item that you really liked but is not listed above please comment below and return soon for more Data in the Rough!

How Oscar Heyman became the Jewelers’ Jeweler

Full disclosure I have been waiting for this book, Oscar Heyman The Jewelers’ Jeweler, to be released for almost 3 years. I follow JCK news frequently and on July 15, 2014. This story by Jennifer Heebner showed up.

I clicked on the link immediately! There was the editor detailing how this book about the over 100-year-old jewelry company was being worked on by the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. The main point I wanted to know was the release date, which was estimated around 2015 or 2016. Well that was pushed out, but I waited and waited. Then on February 3rd, 2017 I received an email from the Museum of Fine Arts about the book’s release on April 1st.

April 1, 2017, arrived and I called the MFA to confirm they had this book. The weather in Boston on April 1st was terrible with snow, wind and rain, a good joke for New Englanders’ thinking winter was behind them. Once I knew the book was ready to buy I made my journey, by public transportation no less, to the museum. Why go on the worst day when I could wait for a sunnier day the next? I wanted this book and the wait had been long enough. Amazon was even behind, not releasing it until the next week.

So what got me to this point? What is it that drew me to Oscar Heyman’s jewelry? It wasn’t the jewelry that got me curious about this company it was their reputation and their story.

The Beginnings

In 1901 the Heyman family sent two of their sons, Oscar and his older brother Nathan to train to be jewelers in the Ukraine. They were living in the Russian controlled area of Latvia at the time. These young apprentices manufactured jewelry and other objects for international clients and the House of Peter Carl Faberge. I had previously seen this reference to Faberge in literature about the Oscar Heyman & Brothers Company. This is what caught my eye and had me research and follow this firm for many years now.

I have written some about Faberge. He is one of my (if not my) favorite designer! My goal is to own a small item manufactured by Peter Carl Faberge’s company. It does not matter what it is, because whatever I buy will be of the best quality.  That is what made Faberge’s company so wonderful every piece no matter the size or value had to be consistent in quality. Everyone that worked for him or represented his company had to meet his high standards.

From what I have seen and learned about the Oscar Heyman Company on my own and through this book is that they have several aspects of their company that parallel Faberge’s. One being their craftsmanship and the second, relationships.

 

Craftsmanship

I see a lot of jewelry at auctions, stores, designer open houses, etc. and the over used phrase of, ‘That is so beautiful!’, is frequently heard at these events. But there must be more than beauty to make a piece of jewelry be looked at as an object of art and desire. The jewelry needs a soul.

A story I have highlighting the character of an Oscar Heyman piece, is from a Christie’s online auction preview I went to last year.  I was going through the cases, starting at one end and working around, when I heard a Christie employee telling a woman that was trying on jewelry from the case about an Oscar Heyman ring that she identified. I tried to move inconspicuously towards the two. The woman telling the story continued telling how Christie’s received a group of jewelry to be cataloged for this auction and as she was going through the jewelry, a ring stood out to her as being something that looked like it was by Oscar Heyman. There was no stamp of the designer but the worker wanted to just see if it might be one of theirs. Pictures and details of the piece were sent to the Heyman office and sure enough Christie’s was contacted and told the ring was in the Heyman archives! Making it a total of three Oscar Heyman rings being offered at this auction! The woman trying on jewelry was no longer looking at the piece she was currently trying on but taking in this fun story of discovery. She quickly asked if the piece she had on was the ring. Her ring was of a gold alligator that wrapped around her figure, most likely a Kieselstein-Cord ring, definitely not an Oscar Heyman, the Christie’s worker confirmed that.  What was the ring you ask? Well the other onlooker wondered if she had picked it but did not ask about seeing the actual ring. I looked in the case and saw three rings with a similar design, a large stone with smaller stones around it. One stood out and I had a feeling that was the ring. So I asked to see the Oscar Heyman ring and the employee picked the one I had my eye on! A yellow diamond in the center with smaller alternating yellow and white diamonds around it. What stood out to me? The setting. The stones were layered and seemed to sit a little higher than the other similarly designed rings. Picture below:

So that was one down. I spotted the second one, a ruby that was in a case by itself.

 

Had to try it on!

The third one I had to ask. This sapphire and diamond ring was in another case, two out of three is not bad!

Not every quality piece I have seen is from Oscar Heyman, but every Oscar Heyman is a quality piece.

 

Relationships

Another aspect that the book touches on is relationships the company has with their employees and retailers.

Company loyalty can be hard to find. Even when you do find a stable job the conditions can be hard to be happy in. So, it was refreshing to hear a story about how the Oscar Heyman employees handled the 25th anniversary of the company. Oscar Heyman and his brother came over to America in 1906 and founded their company in 1912. The 25th anniversary took place in 1937, a time when the country was struggling with troubling economic hardships. The day was to be like any other but the employees wanted to mark the occasion. For the silver anniversary, the employees worked in secret for fourteen months to complete a clock to present to their employers. Picture below found from post by Couture Musings:

Around the globe are the letters O. Heyman & Bros each character marking an hour. The figure on the right is to represent a workbench jeweler. The figure on the left is the god Mercury, that represents commerce and financial gain. At the silver base are the names of all the current employees for that time. It was touching to read that story and to think how much those employees must have loved working for the company to do all this!

Faberge ran a workshop that also cared for their workers. The workers had good wages, excellent working facilities and even had the opportunity to manage small businesses within the company. Many pieces not only have the stamp of Faberge but the maker in charge of that object. It gave a sense of pride and ownership to the workers. Rare for a company to be so invested in their workers.

The retailers also had favorable comments about Oscar Heyman. Mr. Heyman passed away in 1970, the book notes that one retailer recalled during the Depression how Mr. Heyman granted his clients with the option of credit and the opportunity to sell the jewelry on consignment. This helped many businesses stay open as paying for those high-end pieces would have crippled their cash flow significantly, causing them to possibly go out of business.

These businesses were not just a few retailers Oscar Heyman’s business model is selling to stores not to consumers. Black, Starr & Frost, Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels to name a few had Oscar Heyman & Bros manufacture jewelry to sell under their stores name. When going to auctions you can still find pieces marked as one retailer but were created by the Heyman Company.

Below is a bracelet that was clearly marked in the Sotheby’s catalog as being from Black, Starr & Frost but on Instagram Heyman shared it as one of the pieces they manufactured. In the book a similar bracelet is pictured and credited as Oscar Heyman. Details of this amazing piece at auction are taken by me below.

Looking Forward

The book spends its time focusing on Oscar Heyman’s business from 1912-1970. Ending their story with the passing away of Oscar Heyman on July 13, 1970.  A few paragraphs mark the centennial that the company celebrated 5 years ago but the focus on the book is the company through the years.

I genuinely enjoyed the book. I was a little concerned when I saw the page count, worrying it would be all photos and no real story, like a coffee table book. It would have been the easy way to make this book.  The thought of picking from hundreds of thousands of jewelry photos seems difficult but how could you go wrong with picking any piece, especially with all the rich history? This book was to show and explain why Oscar Heyman is the Jewelers’ Jeweler. This isn’t a title they claimed for themselves like a marketing campaign. The title has been given to them by the employees, retailers and customers who have been a part of their story. I look forward to continuing to see their jewelry at auctions, in stores and on social media for a new audience to appreciate.

Links to buy the book from Amazon are here or from the Museum of Fine Arts Boston click here