BEHIND THE SCENES AT CHRISTIE’S AUCTION HOUSE, WHERE DIAMOND RINGS SELL FOR MILLIONS
Clutching at catalogues and licking the tips of their fingers as they flip from page to page, prospective buyers fill the room, following the lots as the auctioneer calls them out. I watch them raise their paddles surreptitiously and, unused to the confidential nature of auctions, find myself peering around with curiosity. Understandably, my gaze is met with taciturn stares from buyers who wish to remain anonymous in the crowd. I soon acclimatise to auction etiquette and make sure to sit firmly on my hands, for fear of scratching my nose and ending up the proud owner of a 19th century diamond tiara.
I am at Christie’s Auction House in St. James, London, having gained exclusive access to the 2019 Important Jewels Sale.
Founded in 1766, Christie’s is one of the two largest auction houses the world over, alongside competitor Sotheby’s. It’s the place where Leonardo da Vinci Salvator Mundi sold for $450.3 million, where Elton John flogged 20 oh his luxury cars and the Givenchy black dress worn by Audrey Hepburn in ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ was bought for just under half a million pounds.
Back in the room, there is a hushed sense of excitement, which gradually simmers as higher priced items appear on the screen. Christie’s staff can be seen manning the phone banks in lines, negotiating with clients on calls as each item progresses. “The sapphire and diamond wristwatch is now at £80,000 Madame, would you like to say £85,000?” one might mutter discreetly down the phone at any given point. Said wristwatch ends up being bought for £87,500, a mid to high price point of the day’s proceedings.
A rare medieval sapphire ring, hailing from the 1400s, goes for £30,000. The design is iconographic, with the infant Christ engraved on one side of the gold mount. The ring is one of the oldest items they have ever sold at auction.