Back to the second part of Heidi Horten jewelry sale cancelled by Christie’s

Luxus Plus was in Geneva in May 2023 when Christie’s wielded the hammer for the sale of the jewellery collection from philanthropist Heidi Horten’s Estate. But despite the success record sale, which totalled CHF 180 million, the planned online continuation of the sale has now been cancelled by Christie’s – because of the Horten Estate’s complicated provenance with Nazi roots.

“And … sold!” In May 2023, Christie’s Geneva conducted the sale of the world’s most valuable jewellery collections – The Heidi Horten collection, which was divided in individual lots.

Among the highlights were the Harry Winston ‘Briolette of India’ diamond necklace (sold for CHF 6,337,000), and a Bulgari diamond and emerald ring with a fancy vivid yellow 20.92-carat diamond (sold for CHF 1,739,000). In the end 98% of the extraordinary pieces were sold to bidders around the world, Europe and the Middle East accounting for 50%, the Americas for 28%, and Asia for 22%. The sale amassed a total of CHF 180 million ($ 202 million) for philanthropic causes, and a continuation of the auction was planned for November.


Harry Winston natural and cultured pearl and coloured diamond necklace, sold for CHF 6,458,000 © Anders Modig


The collection was acquired by Austrian philanthropist Mrs. Horten from the beginning of the 1970s until her demise in 2022 from prestigious houses such as Bulgari, Cartier, Tiffany, Harry Winston and Van Cleef & Arpels. It was however also one of the most contested collections. Why? Mrs. Horten’s wealth was based on an inheritance of her first husband Helmut Horten, whom she married in 1966. German businessman Mr. Horten, who passed away in 1987, was a known Nazi, laid the foundation to his wealth by buying Jewish business that were sold under duress during the Nazi era. Thus, several Jewish organizations wanted to stop the auction before it took place in May. 


Harry Winston ‘Briolette Of India‘ diamond and diamond necklace had an estimate of CHF 9,000,000 – CHF 14,000,000, but sold for CHF 6,337,000 © Anders Modig


Christie’s decision to take on the jewelry sale from Heidi Horten’s estate was only made after careful consideration, which was transparently communicated in the spring, prior to the May auction. “We were aware of the history of Helmut Horten’s actions during the Nazi period, when he purchased Jewish businesses that were sold under duress. His activities were well documented and provided the foundation for his later wealth. However—and without ignoring or excusing Mr. Horten’s actions in any way— the jewellery collection of his wife, Heidi Horten, was assembled decades later, between the beginning of the 1970s and 2022, the year of her death,” said Christie’s in an email that also stated that none of these jewels come from a “spoliation or forced sale from a Jewish owner”.   

Through this public sale, organized in a transparent manner, we are trying, for our part, to work to preserve the memory of the most painful period in history and of those who were tragically its victims,” the email continued.


Bulgari diamond and emerald ring with a fancy vivid yellow 20.92-carat diamond, sold for CHF 1,739,000, almost double the high estimate © Anders Modig


The fact that all of the Estate’s proceeds from the sale was for philanthropic causes, including medical research, children’s welfare, and access to the arts, was also essential for Christie’s to conduct the sale. In addition to this, Christie’s pledged that a significant portion of its commission would benefit organizations that contribute to vitally important Holocaust research and education.


However, during the summer The New York Times and Jerusalem Post have reported about several examples of Christie’s donations not having been accepted. According to the NYT, Jewish organizations used the word “appalling” about the sale. In what seems to be an answer to this, Christie’s has now cancelled the part 2 auction of the collection, which was planned for November.


Said Anthea Peers, President of Christie’s EMEA, in a public statement:

Christie’s has taken the decision not to proceed with further sales of property from the Estate of Heidi Horten. As previously reported, the majority of the value of the collection was sold in Geneva in May 2023 for $202 million, raising important support for philanthropic causes, including medical research, children’s welfare, and access to the arts. The sale of the Heidi Horten jewellery collection has provoked intense scrutiny, and the reaction to it has deeply affected us and many others, and we will continue to reflect on it.”


Christie’s declined to comment beyond the statement, and a huge question remains: How will this influence future provenance discussions?




Photos Credit : © Anders Modig

Anders Modig est spécialisé dans l’horlogerie, le design et les voyages. Il écrit pour le NY Times, le South China Morning Post et Vanity Fair On Time. Ses photographies ont orné les couvertures de six publications différentes. Auteur fantôme d'une biographie, il a créé du contenu pour plusieurs marques et organisations.


Luxus Magazine recommends

Luxus Magazine N°8

Now available