The World’s Most Valuable Jewelry Collection Is Coming to Auction in May
Set to realize more than $150 million, the Christie’s sale features some 700 extraordinary pieces owned by late Austrian art collector Heidi Horten
The world’s most valuable jewelry collection goes on view this May. Christie’s Geneva is presenting “The World of Heidi Horten,” a sale of the unparalleled jewelry collection of the late Austrian billionaire and art collector, featuring a staggering 700 jewels. The sale kicks off with “The World of Heidi Horten: Magnificent Jewels Part I” on May 10, followed by a Part II auction on May 12 and an online sale, open for bidding from May 3 to 15.
The incredible trove boasts not only impeccable quality, with exceptional and rare diamonds, rubies, and jade, but also bold individual flair with stunning pieces by masters of a generation, including Bulgari, Cartier, Tiffany, Harry Winston, and Van Cleef & Arpels. With a pre-sale estimate of more than $150 million, it is set to be the largest and most valuable private jewelry collection ever to come to auction. It also sits amongst previous record-breaking sales of the Elizabeth Tayler Collection in 2011, and the Maharajas & Mughal Magnificence auction in 2019–the only two jewelry collections in history to realize more than $100 million.
“It is the collection of a lifetime...From Bulgari to Van Cleef & Arpels, from a small personal memory piece to the Briolette of India, this is a collector’s dream”Rahul Kadakia, Christie’s international head of jewelry
Horten inherited her wealth from the death of her husband, Helmut Horten, founder of German department store chain Horten AG. A respected art collector, Heidi, who married twice more, also amassed an incredible art collection. Her holdings include seminal works by Francis Bacon, Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Gustav Klimt, and Pablo Picasso. Horten primarily collected German Expressionist and American Pop work.
As per Horten’s wishes, all of the estate’s proceeds from the jewelry sale will benefit The Heidi Horten Foundation—established in 2020 to support The Heidi Horten Collection as well as medical research and other philanthropic activities that she supported for many decades.
“It is the collection of a lifetime,” says Rahul Kadakia, Christie’s international head of jewelry. “From Bulgari to Van Cleef & Arpels, from a small personal memory piece to the Briolette of India, this is a collector’s dream. Building from extraordinary early pieces she acquired in the 1970s and ’80s, Mrs. Horten continued to grow and curate her sophisticated collection, eloquently combining vintage and modern designs from the leading jewelry houses of the world that today represent some of the finest examples ever to come to market.”
“Heidi was genuinely passionate about her jewelry and bought for pleasure rather than investment. She looked for pieces that she wanted to wear,” adds specialist Max Fawcett. Each piece in the collection was meticulously documented and carefully stowed in a monogrammed ‘HH’ box. “She looked for beautiful and exquisitely crafted pieces that she wanted to wear.”
See some of the most spectacular pieces below.
1. Harry Winston, the Briolette of India
A magnificent diamond necklace by Harry Winston featuring a D color briolette-cut diamond of 90.36 carats has a fascinating backstory. The diamond was first acquired by Cartier in 1909. The stone was then purchased by American philanthropist George Blumenthal in 1910, and in 1946 his widow sold the stone to Harry Winston. A year later the stone was sold to an Indian Maharaja in a jewel that was designed to be worn as a pendant to a necklace, as a clip, or as a diadem. It remained in the Maharaja’s possession until he passed and Harry Winston repurchased it in 1956. It was subsequently sold to Mrs. I.W. Killan of Canada and purchased a third time by Harry Winston in 1967. In 1971 the Briolette was sold to Heidi Horten and has remained in her collection for 52 years. This is the first time that this 90 carat D color elegantly shaped Briolette is offered for sale at auction and is the star of the sale.
2. Three Strand Natural Pearl Necklace by Harry Winston
Highlighted by a cushion-shaped pink diamond clasp of 11 carats, this stunning necklace also designed by Harry Winston features a triple strand of 175 natural saltwater pearls and is expected to fetch between $7 million and $10 million. “The pearls are incredibly large and have a lovely pink color and an amazing luster,” says Max Fawcett. “It really is one of the best pearl necklaces we have ever offered at Christie’s.”
3. The Sunrise Ruby (Cartier Ruby and Diamond Ring)
This cushion-shaped brilliant-cut ruby ring of 25.59 carats boasts an extraordinary pigeon-blood color and is expected to go for between $15 million and $20 million, according to the Christie’s catalog. “Natural rubies of such quality and size are extremely rare,” says Fawcett. ‘The depth of color, high clarity, and brilliance make it one of the most sought-after rubies on Earth.”
4. Bulgari Sapphire, Colored Sapphire, Emerald, and Diamond Necklace
Featuring a cushion-shaped modified brilliant-cut sapphire of 37.84 carats, a Padparadscha sapphire of 33.59 carats, an emerald of 33.20 carats, round and square-shaped emeralds, and an assortment of diamonds, this Bulgari necklace is just one of the many pieces by the Italian jewelry house in Horten’s collection. “The pieces she collected in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s are typical of Bulgari’s style of the period,” Max Fawcett observes. “There’s a lot of yellow gold, bold color combinations, and cabochon cuts of sapphires, emeralds, and rubies.”
5. Bulgari Emerald and Diamond Pendant and Necklace
This striking piece features a lozenge-shaped cabochon emerald of 21.53 carats, cushion-shaped old-cut diamond of 9.06 carats, rectangular-shaped buff-top emeralds, and baguette-cut and round diamonds, all set in 18k yellow gold with two interchangeable necklaces—one with cultured pearls (shown) and the other with emeralds. “These pieces encapsulate the glamour and hedonism of la dolce vita,” Fawcett explains, adding that Sophia Loren, Princess Salimah Aga Khan, and Elizabeth Taylor were among other regular Bulgari clients. “Collectors are looking for vintage pieces in excellent condition that epitomize the style of the era, and these are the best of the best.”
6. Bulgari Diamond Sapphire and Emerald Necklace
Among the star Bulgari pieces is a diamond, sapphire, and emerald necklace, set with a 46.56-carat round brilliant-cut diamond at its center. Originally sold by Cartier in 1975, when it was set in a ring, the diamond was later acquired by Harry Winston and refashioned into a necklace by Bulgari. “The explosion of color makes it a real ‘wow’ piece,” says Fawcett. ‘The geometric design, featuring baguette-cut diamonds and cabochon-cut sapphires and emeralds, is instantly recognizable as Bulgari.”
7. “The Great Mogul” Harry Winston Emerald and Diamond Pendant Necklace
Featuring an intricately carved emerald of approximately 362.45 carats depicting a scene from the ancient Indian epic poem the Ramayana, this necklace from the late 1960s has a pre-sale estimate of $500,000 to $700,000. “To find a collection in Europe with such important jade is extremely rare,” says Fawcett. “Heidi collected jade over a long period, so it was clearly something she was very passionate about.”