Jewels with Nazi links set to fetch over $150 million at auction

This handout picture made available on March 28, 2023 by Christie´s auction house shows a Bulgari-coloured diamond and emerald bracelet, part of estate of Heidi Horten that will be offered during one of the largest jewelry sales in history on May 2023 in Geneva.—AFP 

GENEVA: Christie’s auction house will next week launch the sale of 700 jewels belonging to Austrian billionaire Heidi Horten, whose German businessman husband made his fortune under the Nazis.

Heidi Horten, worth $2.9 billion according to Forbes, died last year aged 81.

The famous auction house will accept bids for Horten’s collection which includes “unique and exceptional pieces” from 20th-century designers such as Cartier, Harry Winston, Bulgari and Van Cleef & Arpels.

Four hundred of the Horten lots will be sold at Christie’s Geneva auction house from May 10 to 12. The whole collection has an estimated value of more than $150 million.

The sale is expected to break all previous records set by Christie’s in sales of possessions that belonged to actress Elizabeth Taylor in 2011 and the “Maharajas and Mughal Magnificence” collection in 2019. Both collections exceeded $100 million.

According to the auction house, a 25.59 carats Cartier ruby and diamond ring, weighing in at 25.59 carats and having “a saturated pigeon-blood red colour and fine purity,” will lead the auction.

Max Fawcett, head of jewellery at Christie’s in Geneva said: “What makes this collection particularly remarkable is the breadth and quality of the gemstones represented.

“You’ll find everything from costume jewellery and one-of-a-kind haute joaillerie pieces, to historic jewels with exceptional provenance,” he added.

The Nazi connection

According to a January 2022 report by historians authorised by the Horten Foundation, Horten’s husband Helmut Horten was a member of the Nazi party before being expelled.

Horten took over the textile company Alsberg based in the western city of Duisburg after its Jewish owners fled Germany in 1936. Adolf Hitler seized power in 1936.

He later took over several other shops that had belonged to Jewish owners before the war.

The auction house has stressed that the proceeds from the sale will go to the Heidi Horten Foundation, established in 2021 to support the eponymous art collection, as well as to medical research, child welfare and other philanthropic activities that the wealthy heiress supported.

“For our part, Christie’s will make a significant contribution from its final proceeds of the auction to an organisation that further advances Holocaust research and education,” it added in its online statement.

Other pieces will be sold online from May 3 to 15 and in November.

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