Antique & Estate Jewelry / Colored Stones / Industry

Heritage Sees Fine Jewelry Auctions Continuing Their Upward Trajectory


At the pandemic’s start, many jewelers rightly wondered how business would fare and whether an online retail experience could work with fine jewelry sales—and the answer was clear with companies such as Heritage Auctions seeing its sales in that category double over two years due in part to online buying.

In December, the Dallas-based auction house held its annual Holiday Jewelry Signature auction, which ended what Heritage says is its “best year ever recorded” in fine jewelry. This last Signature jewelry event had total sales of $4.7 million—which brought its 2021 jewelry sales to $21 million. That is a 52% increase from its 2019 total of $13.8 million.

Best of all, 2022 is poised to continue this positive trend, says Jill Burgum, senior director of fine jewelry at Heritage Auctions. This is likely good news for all jewelers, especially those who are investing in their web-based retail presence or want to appeal to clients looking for fine jewelry online.

“We have been on a steady upward trajectory for several years and were pleased by the strength of our online platform results during the early stages of the pandemic,” Burgum says. “When so many businesses were shut down or scrambling to regroup, we moved full steam ahead.”

Oscar Heyman Gorilla
Heritage Auctions recently sold this Oscar Heyman gorilla brooch at auction for $40,000, 300% above its estimate.

What will be hot for the next 12 months? Burgum says, “Interest in jewels of the 1970s and ’80s is rising, as is demand for fine colored gems and the perennial favorite, diamonds.”

Burgum credits Heritage Auctions’ “dynamic, user-friendly, sophisticated platform” that gives clients a fun and unique buying experience—something people who are looking to buy fine jewelry want as much as the next person.

“Every lot has a description, condition report, and body-form image. Jewelry department team members are available for phone and video chats. We expanded our social media outreach too,” Burgum says. “And we allow bidders to track lots, page views, and follow bidder counts. It is an interactive and transparent process.”

Burgum says clients are looking for one certain quality: rarity.

“It applied across the board in terms of the impact on diamonds and fine colored gemstones, the combined elements of size, color, and overall quality, to novelty pieces,” Burgum says. “The rarity factor produced the most interest, leading to intense bidding wars, which ultimately propelled the success of top lots in 2021.”

Fancy light yellow diamond ring
A ring with a 16.52 ct. light yellow radiant diamond in 18k gold sold for $162,500—63% above its estimate at Heritage Auctions.

Those fanciful pieces include a bejeweled Verdura lion’s paw brooch and a glittering Oscar Heyman baby gorilla brooch (shown above). Before you scoff, just know that the winning bid on that baby gorilla brooch came in at $40,000 or 300% above estimate, something that was “exciting for everyone,” Burgum says.

People will continue to look at estate jewelry as key parts of their overall fine jewelry wardrobe for years to come, Burgum says, for two reasons.

“First, there is tremendous value in acquiring estate jewelry. Items at retail may be unattainable based on price, limited quantity, or location. When presented to the global auction market, it is at palatable estimates,” Burgum says. “Second is the treasure hunt aspect in acquiring unique one-of-a-kind items for pleasure or investment, which drives bidders.”

Heritage Auctions has more than 40 categories overall, so beyond fine jewelry there is something for every bidder. It does hold jewelry auctions on weekly, monthly, and specialty bases throughout the year, including its Signature auctions, which are held three times a year. The Signature auctions offer a wide variety of jewels priced starting at $5,000.

Its lots can include unmounted colored gemstones and diamonds, period heirlooms, designer brands, and everything in between. Heritage Auctions presents upward of 7,000 jewelry lots during an average year, Burgum says.

“We bring a fun factor by peppering our sales with novelty pieces designed to make one smile, whether that be a diamond hourglass, grinning carved hard stone hippopotamus, diamond-trimmed eyeglass frames, or gem-set dice,” Burgum says. “We want our bidders to enjoy their experience.”

Top: During its December auction, Heritage sold this Van Cleef & Arpels ring in platinum with a 21.56 ct. oval sapphire and diamonds for $187,500, rounding out one of the auction house’s best years in fine jewelry (all photos courtesy of Heritage Auctions).

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Karen Dybis

By: Karen Dybis

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