MOST BRANDS CARE FOR HANDBAGS, JEWELRY, TIMEPIECES BOUGHT AT AUCTION
By Barbara Tunick
FRIDAY NIGHT JEWELS AUCTION 23167
July 9, 2021 | HA.com/23167a
SUMMER LUXURY ACCESSORIES SHOWCASE AUCTION 22159
July 25, 2021 | HA.com/22159a
Imagine winning your dream Hermès crocodile Birkin at auction. A year or so later, after noticing some scratches and discoloration, you take it to your trusted, local leather shop where they promise it’s an easy fix. But when you pick it up, it looks like a completely different bag. Yes, the scratches are gone, but the color isn’t right. The deep rich amethyst hue is gone. It just looks purple. Even the texture doesn’t feel the same. After calling the shop and speaking to the owner, you find they tried to match the color by spray painting the bag. Yes, they spray painted your crocodile Birkin.
Scenarios like this are all too common, says Diane D’Amato, director of luxury accessories at Heritage Auctions. “I’ve heard nightmare stories from clients who’ve taken their bags to leather repair shops that don’t specialize in luxury. Birkins have been spray painted. Bags have been returned with mismatched or inauthentic hardware and there’s just lots of overall sloppy craftsmanship,” she says. “It’s very upsetting to the client and a very expensive mistake. And it’s all so unnecessary because in most cases, the original House will repair and refurbish the bag. They not only have the exact skins, colors and authentic hardware but most importantly, they’re world-renowned artisans who know how to care for your bag.”
The fact of the matter is that many, if not most, luxury houses will care for handbags, fine jewelry and timepieces bought at auction. “For the most part, Hermès, Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Judith Leiber will all repair and refresh their luxury accessories,” D’Amato says. Of course, there are exceptions. “If the skin, hardware or other material is no longer available, or a bag has been repaired outside the House, they’re not going to touch it.”
The same holds true for most watches. “Most luxury watchmakers, including Cartier, Rolex, Patek Phillipe, Piaget, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Breitling and Tag Heuer will stand by and service their watches,” says Vera Prather, Heritage Auctions’ director of fine jewelry.
“Most brands will take the watch in to give an estimate before repairing it, provided nothing has been changed on the watch. If they don’t have a record of the watch or question its construction, some brands will not fix it,” adds Jim Wolf, Heritage Auctions’ director of watches and fine timepieces. “That’s why we will not sell watches that have been altered with aftermarket diamonds, diamond bezels or gold bands. Some brands like Breitling will actually confiscate a watch overseas if it’s not an original or if it’s a prototype or after market,” he says. “Anyone who truly understands watches, knows the mantra that you’re not just buying the watch, you’re buying the seller. That’s why people trust Heritage. They trust our knowledge and our experience.”
You can buy a 100-year-old Patek Phillipe watch at auction and know that if anything ever goes wrong with it, Patek Phillipe will still be able to care for it, Prather says. “They are one of the very few watchmakers today who still make everything by hand,” she says. “That means they have the ability and craftsmanship to hand manufacture any part needed to restore your watch to their very high standard.”
Likewise, most fine jewelers will also repair, refurbish or overhaul their pieces as long as they are authentic – including Cartier, Van Cleef and Arpels, Bvlgari, Mikimoto, Pomellato, Paul Morelli, Temple St. Clair, Elizabeth Locke, Tiffany & Co. and David Yurman. If there is the rare occasion when a brand will not repair, authenticate or clean items, “that’s nothing to worry about,” Prather says.
“There are many reputable jewelers who will repair both signed and unsigned pieces, though when in doubt, deal directly with the original manufacturer,” Prather says. “It’s reassuring for clients to know that when they make an investment in a beautiful watch or exquisite piece of jewelry, it will be cared for by the original manufacturer or their authorized dealer so it will last a lifetime — or longer.”
It’s always nice to get something for free — especially if it sparkles. Maybe that’s why some luxury jewelers offer complimentary cleaning on many of their pieces. They include:
- David Yurman
- De Beers Jewellers
- Mikimoto (with exceptions)
- Tiffany & Company
- Van Cleef & Arpels
Note: Please check before taking your jewelry in for cleaning.
BARBARA TUNICK is a New York-area writer who has written for national magazines and newspapers, including The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Bark and Popular Science.
This story appears in the June 2021 edition of The Intelligent Collector magazine.