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Nazi-linked jewels set record of $156 million at auction

The auction received criticism from Jewish groups in spite of the money going to a nonprofit.

Christie’s auction house on King Street in London. Credit: Christies1766 via Wikimedia Commons.
Christie’s auction house on King Street in London. Credit: Christies1766 via Wikimedia Commons.

A collection of 700 jewels belonging to the wife of a billionaire businessman who grew his wealth as a member of the Nazi Party came up for auction through Christie’s auction house in London on May 10.

Anticipated to fetch $150 million, the collection was to be sold all together and one of the most sought-after pieces, the Sunrise Ruby, was said to be worth $15 to $20 million on its own.

“This sale is indecent … this sale is also to finance a foundation with the mission to safeguard the name of a former Nazi for posterity,” said Yonathan Arfi, president of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France.

The jewels were previously owned by Heidi Horten, who was married to Helmut Horten. She inherited a billion dollars upon his passing in 1987. Heidi died in June 2022.

Many of the jewels ended up fetching much lower prices than estimated. The Sunrise Ruby sold for 13 million francs ($14.6 million). A diamond ring believed to be worth as much as 3.2 million francs sold for about $1.28 million.

However, ultimately the collection did sell above its lower estimates, earning $156 million.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center called on Christie’s to put the sale on hold so that further research of any connections to “Nazi-era acquisitions are completed. Don’t reward those whose families may have gained riches from targeted Jews.”

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