Sotheby’s sale of a 1930s Cartier bracelet achieved a stunning total $1.34 million on Tuesday in the single-lot auction, the first time the item had ever surfaced at auction. Collecting a total of five bidders, the Art Deco piece far exceeded its pre-sale estimate of $600,000-800,000, making it the highest item of jewelry to be sold in an online sale at Sotheby’s—just behind the $1.5 million Economist Friedrich von Hayek’s 1974 Nobel Prize sold in an online auction in 2019.
“The result achieved for this bracelet is testament to the fact that, even under the most challenging of circumstances, the demand for great art endures. Tutti Frutti jewels have always held a special allure for collectors, capturing the West’s fascination with the ‘exotic’ at a time when travel was relatively limited, much as it is today” said Catharine Becket, Sotheby’s Head of Magnificent Jewels Auctions in New York.
The sale of the Cartier piece also marks the rise in price points amid the auction sector’s expansion of digital sales. In the first quarter of 2020, Sotheby’s reported its jewelry online auctions have grossed a total of $7.4 million, surpassing the sale category’s combined pre-sale estimate of $4.7-6.5 million seeing an overall sell-through rate of 93% across the board.
The Cartier tutti frutti design is a coveted emblem of the Art Deco period, an iconic mix between Western and Eastern. In the 1920s, European fashion houses appropriated the style of Indian royal jewelry during with the expansion of exoticism. Influenced by 16th century Indian Mughal-cut style of variegated stones and a diamond clasp, the sold item is renowned for its royal origin. The first version was designed in 1901 by Pierre Cartier to accompany a set of Indian gowns gifted to Denmark’s Queen Alexandra – who became known a symbol of opulence in the early 20th Century. The Cartier style later gained popularity among high-profile figures in fashion following its debut in 1925 Paris Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes.
With online series multiplying throughout the secondary market, the auction houses have reported a sustained influx of new clients through their digital platforms. Along with the news of the Tutti Frutti results, Sotheby’s also reported 30% the sales’ participating bidders as new clients. Noting high sales volume during the shift to digital, the department is seeing its trend line for online transacting continue upwards from its 2019 results, reporting more than half of last year’s buyers placing bids digitally.