A Life of Luxury – The Smart Collector
MOST BRANDS TAKE CARE OF HANDBAGS, JEWELERY AND WATCHES PURCHASED AT AUCTION
By Barbara Tunick
Imagine winning your dream Hermès crocodile Birkin at auction. A year later, after noticing scratches and discolorations, you take it to your trusted local leather store where they promise it’s an easy fix. But when you take it, it looks like a whole different bag. Yes, the scratches are gone, but the color is not correct. The deep, rich amethyst hue is gone. He just looks purple. Even the texture is not the same. After calling the store and talking to the owner, you find that they tried to match the color by spray painting the bag. Yes, they spray painted your Birkin crocodile.
Scenarios like this are all too common, says Diane D’Amato, director of luxury accessories at Heritage Auctions. “I have heard stories of nightmares from customers who took their bags to non-luxury leather repair shops. The Birkins were spray painted. The bags were returned with mismatched or non-genuine material and there is just a lot of shoddy craftsmanship, ”she says. “It’s very upsetting for the customer and a very costly mistake. And it’s so unnecessary because in most cases the original house will repair and refurbish the bag. They not only have the exact authentic skins, colors and materials, but most importantly, they are world famous craftsmen who know how to take care of your bag.
The point is that many, if not most, luxury houses care about 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,” says D’Amato. Of course, there are exceptions. “If the skin, hardware, or other material is no longer available, or if a bag has been repaired outside the house, they are not going to touch it.”
The same goes for most watches. “Most luxury watchmakers, including Cartier, Rolex, Patek Phillipe, Piaget, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Breitling and Tag Heuer will look after and service their watches,” says Vera Prather, director of fine jewelry at Heritage Auctions.
“Most brands will take the watch to give an estimate before repairing it, provided nothing has been changed on the watch. If they have no trace of the watch or question its construction, some brands will not repair it, ”adds Jim Wolf, Director of Watchmaking and Fine Watchmaking at Heritage Auctions. “This is why we will not sell watches that have been modified with aftermarket diamonds, diamond bezels or gold bracelets. 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 don’t just buy the watch, you buy the seller. That’s why people trust Heritage. They trust our knowledge and experience.
You can buy a 100-year-old Patek Phillipe watch at auction and know that if something’s wrong with it, Patek Phillipe can still take care of it, says Prather. “They are among the very few watchmakers today who still make everything by hand,” she says. “This means they have the ability and the know-how to handcraft any part needed to restore your watch to its very high standard.”
Likewise, most fine jewelers will also repair, refurbish, or overhaul their pieces as long as they are genuine – including Cartier, Van Cleef and Arpels, Bvlgari, Mikimoto, Pomellato, Paul Morelli, Temple St. Clair, Elizabeth Locke , Tiffany & Co. and David Yurman. While there are the rare occasions when a brand won’t repair, authenticate, or clean items, “there’s nothing to worry about,” Prather says.
“There are many reputable jewelers who will repair signed and unsigned pieces, but if in doubt, deal directly with the original manufacturer,” says Prather. “It is reassuring for customers to know that when they invest in a beautiful watch or exquisite jewelry, they will be serviced by the original manufacturer or their authorized dealer to last a lifetime – or longer.”
It’s always nice to get something for free – especially if it shines. Perhaps this is why some luxury jewelers offer free cleaning of many of their pieces. They include:
- David Yurman
- De Beers Jewelers
- Mikimoto (with exceptions)
- Tiffany & Company
- Van Cleef and Arpels
Note: Please check before you take your jewelry for cleaning.
BARBARA TUNIC is a New York-area writer who has written for national magazines and newspapers including The Philadelphia Investigator, The Bark and Popular science.
This story appears in the June 2021 edition of The intelligent collector magazine.