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The mysterious Heidi Horten and her fabulous jewelry collection

by Julie MIALET 13 May 2023


700 lots belonging to Heidi Horten, the Austrian billionaire who died in June 2022, will be auctioned off on May the 10th and the 12th in Geneva. Online auctions will take place from May the 3rd to May the 15th and another sale will be held in November.

Although the Duchess of Windsor's collection in 1987 fetched $59 million and Elizabeth Taylor's legendary jewels in 2011 totaled $115 million, it appears that this auction will far surpass all others with an estimate of $150 million.

Proceeds from the sale of the deceased jewelry collection titled "The World of Heidi Horten" will go to her museum "Heidi Horten Collection" as well as to charity.

Heidi is said to have started her impressive jewelry collection in 1966 when her husband gifted her the Wittelsbach blue diamond for their wedding. However, this diamond will not be part of the sale as it was already sold at auction in 2008.


Her life

She was born on February the 13th, 1941 and died on June the 12th, 2022 and was an Austrian billionaire. She was known for being the widow of Helmut Horten, a great German entrepreneur who had introduced the first supermarkets in Germany, named Horten AG. She met him at a bar in 1959 when she was only 19 and he was over 50. Heidi was also known for being an art collector: her collection included classics such as works by Picasso, Renoir and Richter.


A dubious past

Before the opening of the Horten Museum in Vienna, rumors had spread about the origin of the Horten's wealth, which might come from Nazi despoilment. During her lifetime, Heidi managed to control this controversy, even though her husband's past never ceased to haunt her. She always said that she knew nothing about his past except that he was a member of the Nazi party from 1937 to 1944.

This dubious past has not failed to be looked at again as the sale approaches. Indeed, many associations have asked for the cancellation of the sale, or at least its postponement. This time would be used to estimate the share of the benefits of this sale that should be returned to families despoiled during the war. These considerations were taken into account by Christie's, which chose to maintain the sale on the grounds that "all proceeds from the sale will go to charity". Christie's would also like to make a donation of an unknown amount "in favor of Holocaust research and education".


Her museum

After the death of her husband in 1987, she decided to expand her art collection and create a museum. Heidi opened her museum "Heidi Horten Collection" in Vienna on June the 3rd, 2022 and died 9 days later.

Her attraction to art can be partly attributed to the artistic influence of her father, who was an engraver and technical draftsman. Some of his portraits of his daughter are in the museum's collection. During the 1970s, Heidi and her husband led an art-oriented life, visiting many studios, traveling extensively and acquiring numerous paintings and other pieces. In the mid-1990s, Heidi became a renowned collector, especially the time she bought more than 30 works at a single auction. She had in her collection works of -to only name the most famous- : Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Pablo Picasso, Joan Miro, Henri Matisse, Yves Klein, René Magritte, Fernand Léger, Jean Dubuffet, Francis Bacon etc ...


The sale of the century

Only 11 months after the death of this collector, the sale of the century will take place (10th and 12th of May, 2023). Her gigantic collection of jewels will be put on sale at Christie's, Geneva.

Between the $36 million Marie Antoinette pearl (which will not be sold and will remain at the Horten Museum in Vienna) and the Harry Winston necklace centered with a 90.38 carat D-color briolette-cut diamond -the whitest color a colorless diamond can have-, it’s safe to say that Heidi Horten was a collector of exception.

This promising sale is the largest collection of private jewelry ever seen and will feature gems from top brands of High Jewelry (Cartier, Van Cleef and Arpels, Harry Winston, Bulgari etc). This is an event that shouldn’t be missed by jewelry lovers.

During this sale you will find many treasures such as :

- Harry Winston "The Briolette of India", a diamond necklace featuring an exceptional 90 carat briolette diamond. This extraordinary diamond was successively owned by several jewelers such as Cartier or Harry Winston as well as collectors such as Maharajas or the banker George Blumenthal before joining the collection of Heidi Horten in 1971.

- An exceptional necklace made of three rows of natural pearls with an 11.15 carat pink diamond as the clasp.

- A unique Bulgari Sapphire necklace

- Bulgari sapphire, emerald and diamond earrings

- A Bulgari emerald and diamond pendant

- A Bulgari colored diamond brooch

- Harry Winston "The Great Mogul" emerald and diamond pendant necklace

- A Cartier ruby and diamond ring featuring a very rare Burmese ruby "The Sunrise Ruby”

- A rare Van Cleef & Arpels sautoir made of rubies, emeralds and diamonds

Numerous Bulgari pieces will be presented, as Heidi Horten particularly liked the Italian jeweler. Several series of jewels of the same model but set with different gems will also be auctioned. Why possess only one bracelet when you can have 4 each focused on a precious stone?

Many other wonders are to be discovered on the online catalog of Christie's. Credit @christiesGeneva


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