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Is Christie’s Huge Heidi Horten Jewelry Sale Linked to Nazis?

The Heidi Horten collection is being offered as a sale series.

Heidi Horten

The Heidi Horten Foundation (from Christie’s)

World famous Christie’s Auction House is set to hold one of the biggest jewelry sales in history when it auctions off from the collection of Austrian heiress Heidi Horten on Wednesday. But that auction is now under a cloud of controversy as the late widow may have married into a family with Nazi ties.

The Heidi Horten collection is offered as a sale series, beginning with The World of Heidi Horten: Magnificent Jewels Part I on 10 May, followed by a Part II auction on 12 May and an online sale, open for bidding from 3 to 15 May.

“The glorious assemblage comprises over 700 jewels, a true embodiment of Mrs Horten’s timeless elegance, glamour and taste for collecting. The collection is of impeccable quality and breadth, showcasing the art of jewelry in all its splendor,” said Christie’s.

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The “Briolette of India” alone with its 90-carat diamond is expected to go for as much as $8 million.

The problem, however, is that Heidi’s husband Helmut Horten was a German entrepreneur who built up his business by acquiring at a “steal” stores owned by Jews who were forced to sell out in the 1930s because of Germany’s ant-Semitic Nuremberg laws.

“We are aware there is a painful history,” said Anthea Peers, president of Christie’s Europe, Middle East and Africa. “We weighed that up against various factors,” but Christie’s thinks the befits outweigh the problems.

“It’s one of the most beautifully curated collections that will ever come up in the jewelry world,” said Anthea Peers. “This is a sale that will do an enormous amount for philanthropy. That’s important for the estate and for us.”

From Christie’s:

Heidi Horten was an Austrian philanthropist known for her elegance, glamour and fine taste. From an early age, Mrs. Horten was exposed to objects of great beauty from her father, who was an engraver, and later during her first marriage at the age of 19 in 1966 to German businessman Helmut Horten, when she began to refine her eye for jewelry and works of art.

Over the course of her life, Mrs. Horten became passionately involved in areas as diverse as social welfare, sports and medical research, which she went on to support for decades. Throughout the years, she amassed one of the world’s most brilliant jewelry collections as well as a stunning assemblage of decorative arts, and modern and contemporary art, the latter of which is housed in The Heidi Horten Collection museum in Vienna.

Mr. Horten, Heidi Horten’s first husband, passed away in 1987, leaving a significant inheritance to Mrs. Horten, the source of which is a matter of public record. The business practices of Mr. Horten during the Nazi era, when he purchased Jewish businesses sold under duress, are well documented.

All of the Heidi Horten Estate’s proceeds will benefit The Heidi Horten Foundation—established in 2021 to support The Heidi Horten Collection as well as medical research, child welfare, and other philanthropic activities that she supported for many decades. For our part, Christie’s will make a significant contribution from its final proceeds of the auction to an organization that further advances Holocaust research and education.

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