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Julien-Vincent Brunie: "Being surrounded by beauty and art is a privilege!"

05 february 2018

julien_vincent_brunie_xx.jpgThis last December, shortly before Christmas, the Auction House of Christie's arranged a private display of jewelry in Moscow. The correspondent of Rough & Polished, who had an opportunity to visit this event, was able to admire a luxurious collection of jewelry from famous brands and talk with Julien-Vincent Brunie, International Head of Jewellery Private Sales at Christie’s.

At the annual exhibition of jewelry offered for private sale, the Moscow office of Christie's in Romanov Lane displayed a collection of more than 30 jewelry pieces for a total of about 2.5 million euros. Among the invited guests there were prospect buyers, including media personalities, and journalists of glossy magazines and specialized publications.

Julien-Vincent Brunie, Christie’s Head of Jewellery Private Sales told about the collection, which was a mix of vintage and modern pieces. It included contemporary jewelry of the SABBA brand maintained by Sandro Sabbatini, a talented designer of Italian origin, who works in Paris. These were made of titanium and graced with diamonds and spinel. There were classical things, which may be even called vintage, originating from aristocratic families that are usually sold privately, avoiding open auctions - a Buccelatti necklace with an aquamarine weighing more than 60 carats, a Bvlgari ring with a ruby and a yellow diamond and the most expensive item on display - a spectacular ring with a Burmese ruby of 4.5 carats in size. As Mr. Brunie explained, "auctions have already finished, but before Christmas many still want to buy something and need the mediation of Christie's to find buyers looking for Christmas gifts."

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Image credit: Christie's

Besides this, Christie's and de GRISOGONO launched a partnership project, Art of de GRISOGONO, last November. Mr. Brunie said de GRISOGONO is a fine brand and Fawaz Gruosi is a talented designer. In jewelry, the latter often uses excellent large diamonds. Hence, the idea that both companies join their efforts, selling the most outstanding jewelry in the auction history. Most recently, Christie's put up for sale an impressive and unique emerald necklace from de GRISOGONO with a suspension carrying a diamond weighing 163.41 carats, the largest in the auction history.

Christie's used to sell large diamonds and diamond jewelry quite often before. In the first half of 2017, a diamond weighing 101.73 carats was sold at Christie’s auction in Geneva for $ 26.7 million - a record sum for colorless diamonds. It was bought by the famous jeweler Harry Winston, and, since he was given the right to give it its own name, the diamond was re-named as Winston's Legacy. This stone has the shape of a pear, it is absolutely symmetrical and has a flawless grade. "We sold several diamonds weighing more than 100 carats," Mr. Brunie is proud to say, "but that jewelry piece of de GRISOGONO fetched a record price."

Mr. Brunie regards high quality diamonds as a good investment:

“Everything in this life is determined by quality. At Christie's, I'm responsible for private sales - I attend many exhibitions, and I need to be aware of everything that comes into sight to choose what is needed. I communicate with a number of clients, and I advise them what it is worth to buy - which are the best quality stones that will be a good investment.

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Image credit: Christie's

In any field, be it art or jewelry, you buy what you like. And you always buy quality, which means it's very important to buy in the right place. Then it will always be a good investment. This is something that we always advise to do to our customers.”

Speaking of synthetic diamonds and asked if they have ever been put up for auction (No, of course) and if this may happen in the future, Mr. Brunie answers quite definitely: No and it is unlikely to happen.

"Although technology is becoming more and more sophisticated, ways of identifying synthetics are becoming more sophisticated as well. At Christie's, we treat our business very attentively and carefully. We have the best evaluation experts and we have a super reliable certification system.”

Though Mr. Brunie is engaged in private sales, he works closely with the auction department. According to him, the procedure for examining precious stones participating in auctions is quite complicated and reliable. “If these are collectible stones, then we have 2-3 certificates for diamonds, including from the GIA. Christie's has a very powerful and experienced team of experts, which includes 2,500 employees around the world, and when there are doubts, they exchange opinions and make decisions collectively.”

By the income that diamonds bring to the auction house, they can perhaps be compared with contemporary art - in particular, painting. But in this respect diamonds may even be compared with the classical painting as well - Mr. Bruni recalls a recent event, when Christie's sold a canvas of Leonardo da Vinci for $ 450 million at an auction last November. But this is a unique case. Meanwhile, the aforementioned necklace of De GRISOGONO was sold for $ 37 million, a sum quite hefty for jewelry.

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Image credit: Christie's

According to Mr. Brunie, the year of 2017 was quite successful for Christie's compared to 2016: “The economic downturn is rather beneficial for collectors - the quality of auction lots in this period is increasing. And you can buy the right thing for the right price - it's a pretty positive time for auctions.”

There are all sorts of nuances, however, as it is hard to say which auction items bring the greatest benefit to Christie's. The auction house, Mr. Brunie explains, is a company that buys and sells: "We are operating not for profit, but for the sake of quality."

The work of Mr. Brunie is quite specific and continuous, as he acts on his own schedule - travelling everywhere, looking and seeking what he likes. Mr. Brunie is enthusiastic speaking about jewelry collections, about his penchant (for colored diamonds), about Kashmir sapphires, Colombian emeralds and Burmese rubies – he finds that all precious stones are beautiful and jokes that for him it is easier to deal with women than with their husbands, because women love diamonds, while husbands get nervous buying "their best friends" for them.

Julien-Vincent Brunie came to the jewelry industry 17 years ago having behind him the Law Academy and the Paris School of Business. He talks about Christie’s clients - Elizabeth Taylor among them - and says that many celebrities and collectors are customers of Christie's. Mr. Brunie also says that he was fortunate enough to witness the sale of a stone with an amazing history – it was the pink diamond, which had once belonged to Cardinal Mazarin known for his passion for jewelry and rare stones, who gave it to Louis XIV as a gift.

“And this is not the only case. When you work at Christie's, you have a chance to see unique things and deal with amazing people. I am happy that I am doing this - being surrounded by beauty and art is a privilege. I think that I am lucky - this is the best, most delightful work in the world!”

Galina Semyonova for Rough&Polished