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!

Bonhams 2017 Fall Jewelry Analysis: The $8 Brooch Sells

A busy weekend for me. Lots of auctions coming up but let’s finish our look at the auctions last week. I plan to make this a shorter analysis. I am not including a past auction of Bonhams to compare. Bonhams removes the unsold items from its list after the auction so if you do not gather your data before that then it is harder to get. My plan then is to focus on this auction only. I will look at the stats and percentage of sold versus unsold lots. Next, we will look at the top performing items and then look at the highlights from the post last week.

Sold versus Unsold

Note my results do not include buyer’s premium.

Looking at the table below you can see the percentage sold and unsold by category (type). There were 180 lots up for auction. The types are in order by highest percentage sold.

I also listed the total lots in each category so you get an idea how much was for sale. Watches did well but there were only 4. Same logic can be applied to the worst performing categories that only had 1 lot up for sale in that category. The category with the most items was the Ring category. From the Skinner analysis, we saw rings did well in that auction too.

Let’s dive a bit deeper into the items. Below is the table with the mean, median, and mode. I describe the significance of using these metrics in the Skinner analysis.

The lots ranged from $2,000 to $1,500,000 for the high estimate. So it is no surprise to see the average be so far off from the median and mode. Those higher end products can throw off the average. We see that most items were around $10,000 and sold at or slightly (10%) above the estimate.

Were there any outliers? What were the best performing lots?

Top 5 Lots

I like to look at the lots that outperform their estimates, not look at the lots that made the highest sale. Sometimes those are the same as we saw for that emerald brooch at Skinner. This time that was not the case. There were no major outliers. I created a table of the top 5 lots that were above their high estimate.

It is a good mix of designer and early 19th century that made the list. Below are the first 3.

Diamond and ruby line bracelet from 1925 was estimated to go between $5,000-$8,000. It sold for $20,000.

The emerald diamond ring sold for $22,000 and was estimated between $6,000-$8,000.

This fine diamond pendant from 1910 was thought to go between $8,000-$12,000 and sold for $28,000.

Past Predictions

So what about the items we looked at last week?

The wooden gold brooch by Cartier…

and the black opal that was estimated around $300,000.

Both went unsold. I was surprised about the brooch, it was estimated between $10,000-$15,000. Which I did not think was that bad.

Now to the final piece the story of the yard sale brooch bought for $8 and sold for…

$21,000. Bonhams predicted that right. They estimated getting between $20,000-$30,000.

All photos courtesy of Bonhams.

What are your thoughts on this auction? Do you agree with my findings? What was an item you were watching in this auction? The coming week is going to be fun! I will look at two celebrity auctions based in London. Check back this week for more on Data in the Rough!

 

 

 

Skinner Fall 2017 Fine Jewelry Analysis: The Emerald Outlier

Skinner Fall 2017 Fine Jewelry Analysis: The Emerald Outlier

Week one is done of my auctions schedule. I know I was excited to see the results from the week. There were plenty of ways to look at the data from the Skinner Auction and I confess I took a bit longer trying to see what the best story to tell would be. So, after different ways of dissecting the results I am structuring the article to focus first on the mean (average), median (the middle value of the data) and the mode (the number that is repeated most often) with the % breakdown of the types of items sold vs unsold. Then look at our predictions from the last article and finally the stand out piece in the auction.

Items to remember I used results for both September 2016 and 2017 that do not include buyer’s premium. If the item was withdrawn I considered that unsold.

Sold vs Unsold

For both September Fine Jewelry auctions at Skinner, the percentage was the same, roughly 81% of the lots sold, leaving 19% of the lots unsold. But did the same percentage of items sell in each category (type)? Many did stay the same.  Let’s look at 2017.

Now 2016. I have the categories arranged by highest percentage sold in each category.

I have bolded 2 categories of interest the rings and watches. In 2016 there were 18 watches on auction and 2/3 of them sold. For the 2017 auction there were 11 and 9 sold. I have been reading about trends in the watch industry. I will dig a bit deeper on my own to see about the designers and make. Those numbers though of the count are small. Rings are a bit higher in amount of lots. In 2016 there was a total of 113 auctioned. In 2017 the total was 94. As you can see this auction had great luck on selling rings, 88 were sold! I have not seen as much out on rings trending but it may be something to keep in mind.

So now for the statistics. Last year had over 300 more lots on auction versus this year. Skinner ended up getting a large collection to sell from a museum, I enjoyed viewing the lots and lost a bid for some earrings.

I looked at the data two ways, what were the statistics for the high estimates on the lots and of the lots sold how many times did they go above the high estimate? That calculation was the result $/high estimate.

Looking at the table above we see 2017 had items that had a higher estimated value given to them than last year. The same for median and mode. So higher estimated items in 2017 than last September. What about the results? Looking at the amount above the high estimate it looks like the auctions are about the same. The average says that the auctions had their items make the high estimate. This is why I like the other two metrics. The median shows that the results are less than the estimate. To get the median I arranged the numbers from lowest to highest and went for the item in the middle, or if it is an even number the average of the two middle numbers. The mode looks at the highest number of times the item is listed. So highest amount of lots for 2017 sold for 30% less than what Skinner predicted. In 2016 that number is 20%. Even though the amount per item was lower in 2016 the results were a little better.

Past Predictions

If you read my post last week I had 2 items that I was following. Those were the natural pearl pendant selling between $50,000-$75,000 and the Georg Jensen pieces.

Natural Pearls

The pendant from my last post.

The pendant did not sell. What does that mean in the auction world? Are we seeing a decline in interest? That pearl was not the only one on sale. Lot 383 an Antique Natural Pearl and Diamond Necklace, estimated to go as high as $15,000; sold for $29,000. Almost twice the estimate. The pendant may have been priced too high or there was a flaw that was not disclosed.

Georg Jensen

This designer did better than the pearls. Below are all the Jensen lots that were in the 2017 auction.

Only one Jensen item didn’t sell and 6 of the 10 sold above the high estimate. Here are the top 2 Jensen items.

.830 Silver and Amber Brooch, Georg Jensen

.830 Silver, Amber, and Green Onyx Necklace, Georg Jensen

Now let’s see how Jensen did with the other items. Below is the table for the top 5 items above estimate. Some items tied so more than 5 items are listed.

You see lots 7, 11, 10 all are Jensen. I think this Danish designer is still hot on the auction block. Wait, does that look like a typo, a lot did 10 times better than estimated? Yes, it did. If listed correctly, I checked the catalog and online, the last lot 384, an antique emerald brooch was the stand out piece of the auction.

The Emerald Outlier

This piece was listed to sell between $7,000-$9,000 and its final price was $90,000 (not including buyer’s premium)! What a way to end the auction!

I saw this small piece at the preview.

The emerald measured 9.55 x 9.50 x 4.65 mm and the brooch was less than an inch long. The interest lines in the origin of the emerald, it was a certified Colombian emerald, the finest you can get. Fun fact the emerald brooch and pearl necklace belonged to the same owner, Natica Inches Bates Satterthwaite. A native New Englander whose father worked at Harvard University. She passed away in 2015.

What did you think of my auction recap? Anything you’d like to point out or comment on? Next is a quick recap of Bonhams then more auctions to look forward to on Data in the Rough! Photos except the first one are courtesy of Skinner Auction.