Thursday, March 19, 2009

Slumming at Sotheby's

I know it's been a while, but I've been busy having a life lately. About time, right? New York was a social whirlwind as my Filofax will attest. (And in Filofax news, I found the missing pages so my book is saved!)

I simply must share the hilariously educational Sotheby's story. The morning started out with a pop-in to Ralf's, where I found him with a client, so I knew he wouldn't be able to squeeze in Stephanie time before my lunch with Vicky of Chopard fame. Vicky took me to a fabulous lunch at La Goulue, a New York institution on Madison that has been around since 1972. It's closing its doors in April, another scary sign that even the top .0001 percent is hurting in this economy. I'm so glad I got to experience the resto for the first and last time with Miss Vicky.

After lunch, we headed back to Chopard and I showed Vicky and another Chopard staffer the suites I was bringing to Sotheby's for appraisal. Typically, no matter where you go, appraisers will lowball you—if you do end up selling to them, they want to get the stuff as cheap as possible. Chopard warned me that even Sotheby's does this; de-valuing things by at least 30 percent. (Good to know, right? Esp in this economy, where even PB ladies who lunch are hocking jewels left, right and center.)

Vicky and her coworker ooh and ahh-ed over the angelhair coral, the Chinese jade and an antique timepiece necklace that I threw in my bag as an afterthought. So they loved the pieces, and I worship Chopard, so I was confident that I wouldn't be laughed out of Sotheby's. Or kicked out. Meredith met me outside the building.

We meander our way into the appraisal area, which was completely empty, btw. A young, semi-dumpy-looking gal brought us in to a small room and I lay out the pieces for her. She takes the tray and brings it back to the more senior whodie-whos.

In walks a stunningly handsome and dapper young European of about 25. He starts talking whilst Meredith and I are drooling over him and fawning over the accent. Meredith was having her own delusions of grandeur about the value of these pieces while the first woman was out with the tray. She and I tend to think alike.

"So what would you sell it for?"

"I can't sell it, Roxy wrote it in her will."

"What?! What do you mean?"

"I mean, she literally wrote in the will that none of her descendents are allowed to sell any of her jewels. We are allowed to reset and rework them, but not allowed to sell. The bitch was nucking-futs; her jewelry was more important than her children."

"Yeah, but what if it's like worth a million?"

"Well, if it were worth that, of course. But it's not and I would still be afraid of a Roxy curse."

When Euro Guy said the below words, we had to clamp down on our tongues to keep from laughing. Mer and I couldn't even look at one another.

"Um, er, these pieces are quite stunning, but, er, Sotheby's has a minimum of $5,000 per piece."

I had my best poker face on since I'd been expecting something like this, would never sell and was doing this for shits and giggles—mission very accomplished. But Meredith was dying. I then told him to go ahead and go through the pieces, which he did. And let me tell you, I knew more about angelhair coral, jade and timepieces than this little hottie. Perhaps because I have three decades of innate 'training' and he has, oh probably two years.

He then moved on to the watch, which he said the watch expert placed at the turn of the century. I knew this watch was a little valuable per Landsberg's comments. So I started barraging him with questions that he clearly had no answers for. I asked him to open it, so he brought it back to the watch expert.

"Well," he said upon returning, "this is actually the most significant piece. He said it is from the estate of some prominent family who is a part of some kind of traveling theatrical endeavor."

WTF? Non-Queens English please. He took out the loop to read me the inscription:

"Well first it's made by CD Peacock in 1909. A very prominent jeweler. And the inscription reads 'Edith Dingling' I believe.

"Uh, do you mean Edith Ringling?"

"Yes! That's it." Clearly Euro Guy is new to the states.

"That would be Edith Ringling, the wife of Charles Ringling one of the brothers in Ringling Brothers' Barnum and Bailey Circus. [Hello, how could anyone not know Ringling Bros?] That makes perfect sense because my family is from Sarasota where the Ringlings lived, and Roxy bought a lot of pieces from her friend who was an estate jeweler."

"Ahhh," now he was interested, and a little embarrassed that the client knew 100-fold what he did. The only frame of reference he had for the Ringling Bros was when I told him that Great Expectations, the Ethan Hawke-Gwyneth Paltrow version was filmed at the Ringling Estate (now the Ringling museum) in Sarasota. Remember the disheveled manse that Anne Bancroft's character lived in? That's Edith and Charles' former home, Cá d'Zan.

The more I told him the more interested he became and he seemed a little reluctant to let this piece slip through his hands. As this piece clearly met their minimum. And I was eager to get it back and now even more sentimentally attached to the necklace knowing its history. I love that it was worn by such an important person whose family is such a significant part of Americana.

We left poor, handsome Euro Guy and finally released our pent-up giggles. Patsy and Edina were back, sans mid-day alcohol; a problem we solved by buying a couple bottles in the ground-floor wine store of Sotheby's. (FYI, they have all ranges of wines there, starting at about $15.)

We were still laughing, and I said, "I'll bet you anything he's an intern fresh off the boat."

I pulled out his card and gave it to her and sure enough, Euro Guy is a trainee. We were dying. And you can bet that I'm about to go to my safe to examine some other pieces for inscriptions. Roxy may have been a bitch on wheels—this was a woman who had a wake-up call service rouse my mom and aunt for school every day—but we benefited from her shopaholism.

More NY stories TK; you can see all the photos here.

[Editor's Note—I know Sotheby's is reading; don't let my words affect Euro Guy. He was perfectly lovely. However, Sotheby's, I would rethink sending in trainees to talk shop with clients. Appearances may be deceiving, and you never know when a potential client is well-educated in his or her own possessions. Just a thought. I'm here to help.]