WITH THE BOUTIQUE, HERITAGE AUCTIONS’ CLIENTS CAN INSTANTLY PURCHASE EXQUISITE JEWELRY, TIMEPIECES AND MORE
By Rhonda Reinhart
Some people like to bid. And some people like to buy. For the latter, Heritage Auctions now has The Boutique, a buy-now portal dedicated to private sales of jewelry, timepieces and luxury accessories. That means when collectors in these categories see something they want, it can be theirs with the click of a button, without fear of being outbid.
To keep The Boutique stocked with only the most desirable pieces, Heritage Auctions’ Brett O’Connor, senior director of Private Sales Jewelry and Timepieces, scours the country for exceptional vintage jewels.
“I look at thousands of pieces of jewelry to weed out the chaff and find some real gems,” he says. “I buy items that are mostly 20th-century period jewels from 1900 to 1990 – Art Deco, Retro, but good-quality and of high manufacture. We offer a lot of signed jewels, too – Bulgari, Tiffany, Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels.”
On any given day, pieces in The Boutique might include everything from diamond ear clips and a gold Boucheron bracelet to an American flag brooch that once belonged to Elizabeth Taylor and a 1990s Bulgari necklace gleaming with cultured pearls, diamonds, emeralds and a vibrant octagonal-cut amethyst. “I’m using my 27 years of experience to curate a collection of quality period jewels that is constantly changing,” O’Connor says. “I know where the great jewelry is.”
Indeed he does. O’Connor’s nearly three decades of experience include executive leadership roles at auction houses around the world. As senior vice president at Bonhams in New York, he led the North American Jewelry team and helped rebuild the Hong Kong division. Before that, he served as senior vice president at Sotheby’s in New York, Hong Kong and Switzerland for nearly two decades, providing strategic oversight of property collection and auction operations across multiple locations, and as a renowned auctioneer in the United States, Europe and Asia. As assistant vice president at Christie’s in New York, O’Connor executed nearly a dozen auctions per year, overseeing a range of responsibilities including sourcing, valuation, catalog production and serving as a contributing editor to an antiques and collectibles book.
But before all that, O’Connor was a kid fascinated by minerals and stones, a hobby he eventually turned into a career as one of the auction world’s leading gemstones experts, studying at the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), the authority on diamonds, colored stones and pearls.
“I’m just never able to shake the jewelry bug,” he says. “I love it. When I was living in Switzerland, I found, in a safe deposit box, some of the French crown jewels – Marie Antoinette’s fleur-de-lis tiara, her diamond bracelets that she had on, and an individual pearl that she was wearing around her neck not long before she met her infamous end. It’s powerful to have a piece of history like that in your hand.”
Powerful, yes, but also thrilling: “I love going on a treasure hunt,” he says. “Who doesn’t?”
His passion for unearthing the loveliest, highest-quality, most storied pieces means Heritage Auctions’ clients have access to treasures only someone like O’Connor could find. Some of his favorite new discoveries include a chic 18-karat gold, ruby and diamond Pelouse bracelet by Van Cleef & Arpels from the 1960s and a one-of-a-kind platinum and diamond engagement ring that does double duty as a show-stopping cocktail ring, thanks to a three-dimensional gold flower ring jacket.
The Boutique also offers other luxury goods, including a fantastic selection of sought-after wristwatches and rare Hermès handbags. Heritage could also expand the site to include other categories as well.
“There are opportunities to grow The Boutique,” O’Connor says. “I think with Heritage being the largest auction house founded in the U.S. and the third-largest auction house worldwide, the potential is unlimited.”
O’Connor also has a message for jewelry owners who might be considering paring down their collections: “If you’re looking to sell your jewels, we are buying, and we pay fair prices,” he says.
RHONDA REINHART is editor of Intelligent Collector.