While stories of financial woe and ruin ran rampant throughout the pandemic in 2020, specific sectors performed shockingly well, such as online luxury goods sales. According to a report by Bain & Company, online sales in the luxury market in 2020 were approximately 49 billion euros compared to 33 billion euros. Online luxury sales rose from 12% in 2019 to 23% in 2020. For as many people who found themselves unemployed and with an uncertain future, others found themselves with stable personal finances, government subsidies, and time to shop for goods when services were non-existent. Goods such as luxury handbags and jewelry were deemed investments due to their resale value. A recent year-end sale at Christie’s New York validated those purchases by a record-breaking year for handbag sales and a significant turnover of diamonds by the premier auction company.
Held in mid-December, Christie’s hosted its Handbags Online: The New York Edit, which garnered $3,260,880 and contributed to the most successful year of sales for its Handbags and Accessories Department at Christie’s. Total global sales in the department for the auction house were in excess of $30,000,000. Notably included was the handbag collection of What Goes Around Comes Around, the pioneering curated vintage New York institution that opened in 1993.
The various owner portion of the sale achieved $2,989,980, selling 111% hammer above low estimate and 93% by lot. Critical observations of the sale saw activity from a new generation of clients, with millennials comprising 49% of bidders and buyers and 28% of buying coming from new registrants. The New York Edit sale drew in bidders and buyers from 29 countries, including the Americas, Asia, and EMEA.
The Manhattan-based sale was one of 16 sales globally at Christie’s in 2022 in locations such as Paris, Milan, and Hong Kong, which marked a 36% increase over 2021 of lots sold. The Inside the Orange Box Parts I & II, a single-owner collection of Hermès bags, added to the success of the department selling for more than €4,000,000.
“Christie’s is thrilled to end our historic year of sales in the Handbags & Accessories department with Handbags Online: The New York Edit and our partnership with What Goes Around Comes Around. With the introduction of single-owner collections in the Handbags & Accessories category, and record global sales totals, we are proud of the unprecedented successes of 2022 and are looking forward to another year of servicing our international clientele with the most desirable handbags in the world in 2023, ” said Rachel Koffsky, Christie’s SVP, International Head of Handbags & Accessories.
According to Ambria Mische, the SVP of Buying and Merchandising for WGACA, the popular acronym for the vintage store, it’s the second time to partner with Christie’s. In 2018 they paired up on an auction to celebrate WGACA’s 25th anniversary. For Mische, the benefit is the experience of collaboration.
“What Goes Around Comes Around’s product brings a unique level of curation to the auction house that they don’t always see. On the other hand, working with Christie’s and creating this auction on their platform gives our brand a chance to showcase our iconic products at their physical flagship at Rockefeller Center and to their worldwide audience,” she said, adding, “Christie’s is well known for putting lots of effort into artistic presentations — almost as if they are art installations — that bring luxury pieces to life. That is always fun to see and be a part of.”
While the auction results focused on Hermès bags, the upscale second-hand retailer brought several luxury names to auction besides the famous Kelly and Birkins. They also offered styles from Chanel, Louis Vuitton, and select pieces from Goyard and Gucci.
“Dozens of Hermes Birkins and Kellys were included, several iconic Chanel bags — even a few one-of-a-kind styles — and then, of course, we had a rich variety of trunks from Louis Vuitton. To switch things up, we had everything from a Goyard Dog Bowl encased in an iconic little monogrammed cube trunk to a pair of Gucci by Tom Ford monogrammed flippers and matching goggles — all the luxury necessities!” she confirmed.
The What Goes Around Comes Around collection of Birkin, Kelly, and Constance bags sold beginning at $15,120, fetching as much as $30,240. Separately from other sources, three white matte Himalaya Niloticus crocodile Hermès bags (two Kelly styles and one Birkin) drew a total of $554,400, while various unique models such as an orange and blue indigo Birkin, a rattan basket Birkin and the whimsical Kellydole Picto bag sold for $163,800 for the former and $69,300 for the latter two.
Diamond jewelry also proved its investment prowess at the auction house in 2022. Its December Magnificent Jewels sale garnered $58,772,000, concluding with 93% sold by lot and 105% hammer above the low estimate. A marquee stone—a 31.62-carat Fancy Blue diamond which was the largest ever to appear at auction—fetched $11,840,000.
Another highlight included an 86.64-carat diamond pendant necklace that sold for $5,700,000, while a Graff Colored Diamond Brooch of 107.46 carats sold for $2,580,000. A 51.60-carat diamond ring was purchased for $2,460,000 by William Goldberg, a New York-based diamond firm.
Van Cleef & Arpels had a significant showing that included a ‘Bouquet’ Brooch, formerly from the collection of Eva ‘Evita’ Perón, which sold for $195,300, and a ruby and emerald ‘Mystery-Set’ flower brooch, which realized $1,197,000.
Other notable results include an art deco sapphire and diamond pendant, which sold for $1,380,000, nearly ten times its low estimate, and a pair of heart-shaped colored diamond earrings which also sold for $1,380,000, more than five times their low estimate.
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