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1990: Diamond Jewelry Auctions Attract Worldwide Diamond Dealers

February 1999

Internet Auctions from the Big Houses

On-line auctions are a common event on the Internet. Next to join the party…sothebys.com. Soon you – and the rest of the purchasing public – will be able to participate in a Sotheby’s auction without leaving your desk as long as you‘ve handed over your credit card number.

With the launching of their auction Website, the company continues to expand in virtual space as well as physical – the Sotheby’s company headquarters at York Avenue, New York, is currently under construction for expansion. Sotheby’s has also asked dealers for exclusivity contracts stating that they would not sell on the Internet using any other auction house for two years. One can only assume this to be aimed at Sotheby’s closest rival, Christie’s, which announced it’s intentions to use the Internet as it’s new auction block only two days after Sotheby’s did.

As far as auctioning fine jewelry, though, First Auction beat Sotheby’s to the punch. Launched in 1997, the site has been selling jewelry as one of it’s categories from the start. The big news: beginning February 1, seven pieces from Hammerman Bros., a manufacturer for Tiffany and sold at such up-market super-stores as Saks and Bergdorf‘s, will be sold in a real-time auction with an opening bid of one dollar. Each auction will run for 48 hours.

Though sothebys.com means wonderful things for Sotheby’s, but for the private fine jeweler the Website and others like it may spell danger. Because of the immediate availability of the Internet, where once one might have seen 150 to 300 people in an auction house, now the world, quite literally can be present. In particular, should Sotheby’s decide to enter the smaller goods market, the jewelry industry might really find itself in difficult straits.

The first sothebys.com auction is scheduled for a full week, giving bidders a chance to view the items via their computers and to peruse e-mailed official reports describing the item, but future Internet auctions may go on for months. This is yet another hazard for the “actual” (vs. virtual) jewelry industry since auctions continue with each prospective buyer raising the price with every round of bidding. In other words, the longer the auction continues the more may be paid for a given item.

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