The 700-piece private jewelry collection of the late Austrian billionaire Heidi Horten, the world's largest and most valuable collection of its kind to come to auction, could sell for more than $150 million, Christie's said on Monday.
Some of its most spectacular pieces include the 90-carat "Briolette of India" diamond necklace by Harry Winston, and the "Sunrise Ruby" and diamond ring by Cartier that is worth up to an estimated $20 million.
The collection, acquired between the early 1970s until Horten's death last year, is also comprised of more than 100 Bulgari pieces.
Horten's collection is set to exceed the record sales at Christie's for Elizabeth Taylor's collection in 2011 and the Maharajas & Mughal Magnificence auction in 2019, the only two jewelry collections to have garnered more than $100 million.
Christie's said the estate proceeds of the auctions would go towards the Heidi Horten Foundation, which supports charitable causes including in the fields of health care and child protection.
The jewel's dark history
Before agreeing to auction the collection, Christie's said it had considered the business practices of Mrs. Horten's late first husband, German department store tycoon Helmut Horten, who during the Nazi era "purchased Jewish businesses that were sold under duress."
"What's important is that we have been completely transparent," Rahul Kadakia, international head of jewelry at Christie's, told Reuters.
"We are selling this collection in its identity with the name Horten. It's not being sold as an anonymous collection."
Giving back to Jewish organizations
Christie's said it would make a "significant contribution" from its final proceeds to Jewish organizations to advance Holocaust research and education. It did not disclose the amount.
"Of course we cannot erase history," said Max Fawcett, head of the jewelry department at Christie's in Geneva.
"But we hope that the funds from this sale will go to do good in the future."
Christie's will auction 400 pieces in Geneva on Wednesday and Friday and hold an online sale. It will hold a second online sale for the remainder of the collection in November.
Tova Dorfman, President of the World Zionist Organization stated that it is shameful that Christie’s Auction House has decided to proceed with the sale of the highly tainted Heidi Horton jewelry collection seized from Jews during the Holocaust.
"The World Zionist Organization supports the Holocaust Survivors’ Organization USA and other organizations who are rightfully demanding that the Horten Foundation and Christie’s refocus their goals of benefiting from the sale of the Horten jewelry collection and direct their efforts to compensate those families that were robbed of their assets by billionaire Helmut Horten during the period of Nazi Germany," wrote the World Zionist Organization in a statement on the issue.
"The Nazis carried out a program of Jewish property seizures that stripped European Jews of billions of dollars worth of cash, housing, businesses and personal belongings. In many cases, Jewish property stolen by the Nazi regime or their collaborators was never returned and no compensation was ever forthcoming.
"With tens of survivors passing away each day we must swiftly see to it that the survivors and their families receive what is justly theirs."
Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.