2020 witnessed profound changes in lifestyles for everyone around the world. And in 2021 we’re still smack-dab deep in this disaster. The global pandemic initially slammed life to a full stop overnight. Little by little, while venturing out with trepidation, people everywhere have since figured out how to live in semi-isolation. Still the new normal is odd, and it’s given rise to some odd new normalcy.
Could there be any lasting upside to this calamity? If you’re moving in high-end auction circles, you’d shout, “why of course!” In general, most people are not traveling. They’re eating out much less – if at all – and rarely engaging in recreational activities that require group participation.
But what we are doing with all this glut of ‘down-time’ is shopping. The online variety. It alleviates boredom of course. It can be a de-stressor, and in a real way have a calming effect on one’s psyche. It creates a personal sense of well-being – as in, everything’s going to be alright (eventually).
During COVID-19, consumers moved online and never looked back. Today, shoppers have overcome previous obstacles to buying big-ticket items like jewelry online. They just have. It was online or nothing. But thinking it through, there’s a common-sense reason for this virtual migration. Consumers are reassured that whatever they buy from a trustworthy source online has the same safety measures in place as if they walked into a brick-and-mortar where great customer care includes a full money back guarantee if the buyer changes their mind, or doesn’t like the product for some reason. No questions asked.
Nowhere is that rise in comfort level for buying pricey jewelry sight-unseen more evident than at the auction market. 2020 was a very good year for auctions – to the surprise of nearly everyone. Stones and jewelry were looking like a marvelous mood booster.
For one thing, on October 5, 2020, Sotheby’s sold their 102.39-carat D color flawless diamond for $15.7M US in Hong Kong to a telephone bidder. With an expansively wide pre-auction estimate of between $10M and $30M US and no reserve, that meant the stone would go to the highest bidder irrespective of the amount of the bid or actual value of the stone. Pretty audacious move – but obviously Sotheby’s was sensing their crowd right.
They had an epic success – breaking all records for an online sale, just a few months earlier. In May of 2020, with the country in full-tilt lockdown, Sotheby’s digital auction recorded the highest price paid for an online sale. The elegant Art Deco era Tutti Frutti bracelet of sapphire, ruby and emerald with diamond accents sold for $1.3M US to an anonymous bidder.
Sotheby’s had put estimates on this bracelet for between $US 600,000 – $800,000. But bidding proved lively from five aggressive buyers posting competitive bids during its 4-day auction.
Sotheby’s head of Magnificent Jewels Auctions New York, Catharine Becket, believed the extraordinary result achieved for the iconic Cartier bracelet testified to the fact that, “even under the most challenging of circumstances, the demand for great art endures.”
So, while so much of our former normal life has taken a great hit, it hasn’t dampened the fervor for collecting beauty. Whether we are a deep-pocket buyer or an admirer, what we could all use now is more focus on the lovely things of life.