Thomaï Serdari on Fine Arts & Luxury
Vintage allure
Tiffany & Co. Vintage Minaudière. Courtesy of Heritage Auctions.

Tiffany & Co. Vintage Minaudière. Courtesy of Heritage Auctions.

For the last ten years, auction houses have been steadily increasing their presence in the field of vintage fashion and accessories. Increased consumption of luxury goods has paralleled the ups and downs of the market and, as a result, it has generated an entire new category of product placement at auctions.

While the major auction houses are afraid of diluting their brand with too many luxury sales, they often accommodate their clients’ wishes and allow for minor diversions in etiquette: luxury accessories may be sold along with jewelry or items of minor arts. Regional auction houses, whose main business relies on estate auctions, do not follow the strict classifications established in premier auction houses. This allows them to promote and sell second-hand luxury goods along with everything else.

There is a third type of auction house, either on- or off-line. This is the niche auction house dedicated to the secondary market of luxury goods. An on-line auction house promises “authentic pre-owned luxury,” an assurance more difficult to keep at premier auction houses where clients bring artwork authenticated by specialists. It turns out authenticating luxury goods is not an easy task and requires solid visual training and a tremendous attention to detail in addition to knowledge about and connections to the various luxury brands. Appraising luxury goods, a field that has been gaining prominence because of the increased supply of luxury products in the market, has proven advantageous to lesser-known auction houses that have invested in developing expertise in the field. Consequently, a large number of luxury items are showcased once or twice a year at sales dedicated to vintage luxury goods.

These sales are vital to the growth of fashion and costume museum collections. Art déco minaudières or limited editions of contemporary accessories are not easy to find outside of auction sales.  While fakes are not easy to spot, a luxury goods expert will help you distinguish the good from the bad–with no judgment of taste.  Even if you choose the ugly, you must have your reasons. Vintage is alluring in all shapes and forms.

© Thomaï Serdari