Sotheby’s and Christie’s are the dominant auction houses for jewelry sales in Geneva, but that may change when Phillips hosts its inaugural auction of jewels and art objects at La Réserve Genève hotel on November 6.
Geneva is the logical next step for the auction house, according to Benoît Repellin, its worldwide head of jewelry. The company — which has enjoyed enormous growth since Repellin joined in 2022 — plans to hold jewelry auctions in Geneva twice a year, in November and May, matching the schedules of Christie’s and Sotheby’s, he explains.
“We had an increase in value of 185% for our fall live auction in New York and Hong Kong, compared to the spring. We had a 92% and a 94% success rate [for Hong Kong and New York respectively], which is the highest sell-through rate across all auction houses,” Repellin says. “To have a place in Europe to sell jewelry is a complement to Hong Kong and New York. Geneva is obviously very much the hub of luxury. It’s very well known for horology and also for other auctions, so it was a natural development for Phillips to also hold sales in Geneva.”
The watch connection
This link to horology is important for Phillips. In 2014, the auction house partnered with husband-and-wife team Aurel Bacs and Livia Russo for its watch business. From the moment the respected veteran watch specialists arrived, the auction house shot to the top of the timepiece market worldwide, but particularly in Geneva.
This type of success will be almost impossible to replicate, but Repellin is looking to carve a niche within the Swiss market.
“Phillips definitely has an identity that clients really recognize,” he says. “Watch auctions are very strong, and actually, the strongest ones are usually in Geneva. So we’re also capitalizing on the success of the watch team.” Bacs, he adds, managed to find a watch space that made Phillips stand out from “the two other big ones. We [hope] to do the same with jewelry.”
The November 6 auction shows one of the ways Phillips plans to distinguish itself. Prior to its jewelry sale — The Geneva Jewels Auction: ONE — it will hold a private-collector sale of more than 120 Art Deco objects from iconic jewelry houses and luxury brands. These include precious desk clocks and vanity cases, as well as cigarette cases with Asian and Middle Eastern themes, floral motifs, and geometric designs.
“I think it’s really about bringing what our clients are looking for at the moment — areas where the market is strong for collectors,” Repellin says. “The main goal is to get attractive estimates that reflect the value of the object but are also able to generate competition. This is what results in a better final price.”
Overall, he continues, the auction house’s efforts have been “quite successful in the last two years. So we’ll definitely try to carry on with this, because it’s what paid off for us and our clients.”
Main image: Maison Alix Dumas Feuilles Birmanes ring with gems and diamonds, going up for sale on November 6 with an estimate of $9,200 to $13,800. (Phillips)
This article is from the September-October 2023 issue of Rapaport Magazine. View other articles here.