Things are proceeding quickly for Benoît Repellin at Phillips. After moving to the auction house from Sotheby’s 15 months ago to be head of jewelry for Europe, he was quickly promoted to worldwide head of jewelry. He is currently in hiring mode, trying to recruit people for the company’s New York and Hong Kong branches, as well for its other international offices. He can be seen handling the hammer behind the rostrum during jewelry sales and on Instagram, where he has 79,500 followers. Here, he discusses his daily job at Phillips.
How do you view your job as the head of jewelry at Phillips?
It’s been a great challenge. I was honored and grateful that they trusted me with this appointment. It’s a dynamic and exciting auction house. We’re always looking to bring the best to our clients in a more dynamic and exciting way.
Most of the job is obviously to bring pieces for the next auctions. When the pieces are gathered and everything is confirmed, my job then is to find the buyers for these pieces. Also organizing the team and developing the team. We are currently looking for a few positions in Hong Kong and New York. We now have three staff members and are looking for additional members. So it’s an exciting chapter for me and for Phillips.
What do you love about your job?
The thing I like especially about my job is that I never know what the day will bring. Every day is different, depending on the clients I meet or the events I attend. Then there is always the excitement of a treasure hunt. Meeting with clients at their homes, unwrapping parcels with jewelry inside. I really like this part of business, finding the property for the auction. And then there is also the auction itself that brings a lot of excitement — just going up there on the rostrum with the gavel, leading the auction and seeing what the results will be.
It seems like it would take some stamina. Do you have to be in good physical shape?
It’s quite exhausting when you have 150 lots to do in a row. You need to keep up with the numbers, have a good voice to shout the right numbers, and also keep up the momentum to keep people interested in the auction.
You seem to know a lot about historic pieces. Are they your specialty?
I do like historic pieces for sure. I studied history, art history and gemology. It really brings all of my passions into a piece of jewelry.
From left: Bulgari necklace in 18-karat white gold with diamonds and a cushion-cut, 118.5-carat, unheated Sri Lankan sapphire, up for auction in May; a gold-plated platinum ring from circa 1945 that sold for $816,500, featuring an old European brilliant-cut, 43.15-carat, fancy-yellow diamond.
You also seem skilled at social media. How important is that tool today in the auction business?
I don’t know if I’m skilled. I usually post what I like and what I would like to see on my feed. Everyone wants to see some sparkle. I think it is important to be on social media and to give visibility to Phillips. It does bring some consignments afterward. It’s been a good tool. It’s also good [for staying] in touch with some clients. It’s sometimes easier to contact them [that way] than sending an email or giving them a phone call.
Why did you choose the auction business as a profession?
I’ve always been interested in this field. My father is an appraiser, so we would receive catalogs at home. I’ve always been drawn to the jewelry, tearing the pages apart. I was looking at the prices and the details. After high school, I studied history and art history, thinking of going the auction route. Then I attended the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) for my graduate gemology courses. That’s when I started in the business.
Do you have advice for anyone who wants to get into the auction business?
You need to be passionate about your job. It’s really a field where everyone is passionate about what they’re doing. And also, you need to not be afraid of learning. You can learn from the people you work with, the clients you meet, and from the property, obviously. The more pieces one sees, the better one becomes.
This article is from the May-June 2023 issue of Rapaport Magazine. View other articles here.
Main image: Benoît Repellin. (Phillips)