Hortenová died last year at the age of 81, and her fortune, according to Forbes magazine, reached 2.9 billion dollars.
Arization was the term used by the Nazis for taking property from Jews, giving it to non-Jews, and excluding Jews from business.
The nearly 26-carat “Sunrise Ruby,” which Horten acquired in 2015 for the equivalent of about $30 million — fetched just over 13 million Swiss francs (about $14.6 million) at auction on Wednesday, including fees and a “buyer’s premium.” The pre-sale estimate counted on a price of 14 to 18 million francs.
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Earlier, the 90-carat “Briolette of India” diamond – the centerpiece of a necklace adorned with smaller diamonds – sold for 6.3 million francs ($7 million), including fees. Before the sale, its price was estimated at 9 to 14 million francs.
The buyers of the two star items were not immediately identified.
Overall, Christie’s said Wednesday’s sale — the first in-person portion of the auction that took place online earlier this month — brought in $156 million, above the lowest estimate, and $139 million for the day.
Sapphires, emeralds, pearls, diamonds and much more appeared on sale.
The final stage is set for Friday, but the best parts of the collection were already up for grabs on Wednesday.
Jewish organizations criticized the auction because of the collection’s Nazi history. The Simon Wiesenthal Center, a US-based Jewish human rights group, demanded that Christie’s not go ahead with the sale, according to BBC News. “Hortens’ billions used to build this collection were also the sum of profits from the Nazi Arization of Jewish department stores,” she wrote in a final letter to the auction house.
Christie’s defended the sale of around 700 jewels by saying that the proceeds from the sale would go to charitable causes, including Holocaust studies, support for the Vienna Art Museum, medical research and socially disadvantaged children.
Christie’s did not withdraw from the auction. She only admitted that Horten drew a “significant inheritance” from her husband, who died in 1987. During the Third Reich, as a member of the Nazi party NSDAP, he bought Jewish businesses “under duress” to build a retail empire.
Tens of thousands of Jewish-owned retail stores were Aryanized under the Nazis, and since the Nazis came to power in 1933, the value of Jewish businesses has been reduced by boycotts, propaganda attacks, and other pressure from the authorities. Many Jews received no compensation.
Entrepreneurs like Horten were able to take advantage of this. He built most of his wealth after the war, but his Horten AG department store brand was born during the Nazi era.
The auction house said all the jewels were bought over a period of more than half a century, starting in the early 1970s, more than a quarter of a century after the Nazis lost World War II. She reiterated that she took over the collection with the understanding that all proceeds would go to charity.
David Schaecter, president of the US Holocaust Survivors Foundation, said the group took note of Christie’s explanation, but cautioned that it was “not OK.”
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