Whether new or vintage, the jewellery you buy – like your cars, clothes and watches – can vary in value depending on its brand. And obviously, some brands are more valuable than others.
When it comes to jewellery, don’t mistake a brand’s fame for its value. There are well-known brands whose jewellery won’t be worth much more than what you paid, while there are brands you may never have even heard of that produce jewellery whose value will appreciate with time.
I spoke to experts in the retail, jewellery and auction industries to get their views on which jewellery brands are the most valuable and have the most resale value and thus, investment value.
Here’s my list of the world’s 10 Most Valuable Jewellery Brands—you can’t go wrong buying into any of these, as their exceptional craftsmanship, heritage, and brand strength ensures that the value of any item from them will retain and even increase in value.
Perhaps the most famous jewellery house of all, Cartier was founded by Louis-François Cartier, but it was his grandsons who made the brand world famous. In addition to jewellery, Cartier also made their name as one of the best watch and clock makers in the world so their involvement in horology is longstanding. Their clients have long included the royal houses of Europe and the aristocratic families of America. King Edward VII of England referred to Cartier as “the jeweller of kings and the king of jewellers.”
Many of their jewellery lines become iconic classics, such as the Panthere de Cartier featuring the panther design, and the Tutti Frutti, a cascade of colourful gems launched in the 1920s that was inspired by the colours and spirit of India. In addition to their high jewellery lines, their fashion line such as the Love Bracelet collection is just as iconic.
Van Cleef & Arpels
The Grand Dame of jewellery brands, this august house is steeped in heritage and history. Founded in 1896 by Alfred Van Cleef and his uncle Salomon Arpels in Paris, VCA as it’s popularly known, is renowned for their stunning high jewellery including intricately engineered diamond necklaces that actually zip up and down like a zipper, and an exquisite range of flowers, fairies, ballerinas and wildlife crafted from the finest gemstones. They also have a fine jewellery line of simpler elegant designs including the highly popular Alhambra range of necklaces.
In: New York
Named after the man considered by many as the greatest American jeweller of the 20th Century and one of the greatest jewellers of all time, Harry Winston was founded back in 1932 in New York City. Winston was a genius at promotion: he was the first to lend out jewellery to Hollywood stars for occasions such as the Academy Awards and the celebrities helped spread his fame to the general population. He was known as the “King of Diamonds” and his creative designs attracted some of the world’s most famous people, from the royalty of Europe such as the Duchess of Windsor to those of Hollywood like Elizabeth Taylor.
The company also ventured into making watches that were more than just jewellery and partnered with some of the world’s most respected watchmakers, including François-Paul Journe, Vianney Halter and Felix Baumgartner, for their critically-acclaimed Opus series of watches.
The only British company on this list and one of the few great jewel houses whose founder is still heading the firm, Graff’s speciality are huge flawless gems and jewellery with gorgeous designs and technically perfect craftsmanship. Laurence Graff, the man behind the company, perfectly embodies his brand: at the age of 79 he looks a good 15 years younger, is charming, and the embodiment of impeccable style.
Now worth over US$4 billion, he had dropped out from school at age 14 and once worked as a jeweller’s apprentice where he had to clean toilets. He’s come a long way since then, with clients today who are the world’s most famous and powerful, including the Sultan of Brunei, Donald Trump, and Oprah Winfrey. He changed the diamond industry by being the first jeweller to buy his own diamond mine, creating a “mine-to-market” business model with every sector under his control.
Although based in London, Moussaieff was started by and is owned by a Middle Eastern family and traces its origins back to Arabia. It describes itself as offering “magnificent stones, flamboyant designs and exceptional craftsmanship” and that’s a pretty accurate description. Although the jeweller started their first store in London 1963, their origins in the gem trade go back 160 years, when the man whom the company is named after began selling pearls from his camel across the trade routes of Arabia.
Today, despite having only five stores around the world, Moussaieff has become world renowned for its exceptional, extravagant jewellery, with a flamboyance and opulence that signifies its Middle Eastern heritage. It owns some of the world’s most prized and rare gems, including the Moussaieff Red, the biggest red diamond ever found. The company is run today by 88-year old Alisa Moussaieff, who is almost as legendary a figure as her late husband Shlomo, who ran the company for decades. He was also a confidante of the royalty, celebrities and stars who were and continue to be the company’s customers.
This world-renown brand began in a small village in Greece over 130 years ago when local jeweller Sotirios Boulgaris opened his first store. He eventually settled in Rome where his second store, run by his sons and grandson, would be the beginning of the international jewellery powerhouse of today. They made full use of Italy’s plentiful pool of talented designers and craftsmen to create gorgeous jewellery that would win fans the word over.
Bulgari’s designs are evocative of their country’s style and heritage—intricate, sensual, unabashedly bold and meant to be noticed. Their most famous and iconic designs include the Serpenti, Parentesi and B.Zero1 collections. The brand won many customers including Hollywood’s top stars such as Elizabeth Taylor, who was a lifelong fan. Her then-husband, Richard Burton showered her with extravagant gifts from the jeweller. Many of these which were sold at a Christie’s auction of her jewellery after her death, fetching a stunning US$115 million. The company remained in family hands until 2011, when it was acquired by French luxury group LVMH. Not content with the world of jewellery and watches, Bulgari has also opened namesake luxury hotels in Bali, Milan, Beijing, Dubai and London.
Boucheron is another French jeweller that began as a family business but it is now owned by a huge conglomerate, the Kering Group, which also owns a host of other luxury brands including Gucci, Saint Laurent, Bottega, Balenciaga and Alexander McQueen.
Founded in 1858 in—where else—Paris, Boucheron was soon serving many of the royal families of Europe and the Middle East, making tiaras, crowns and other royal regalia. The American elite soon came calling too, and the Maison began making jewellery for wealthy families. Some of their most renown pieces were made for American socialite Marie-Louise Mackay, including a necklace set with a 159-carat Kashmir sapphire. Today the company has over 50 boutiques around the world.
Tiffany & Co.
In: New York City
The most iconic and well-known American jeweller, Tiffany & Company started in New York City in 1837 as—believe it or not—a stationary store. It was only about 20 years later when they switched to selling jewellery and have not looked back since. Immortalised in the classic film, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” the company today has over 300 stores worldwide. Although they sell a wide range of merchandise including home décor items, table wear, eyeglasses, fragrances and watches, they are still renowned for their jewellery.
Brides the world over still regard a Tiffany diamond ring as the ultimate symbol of romance and the company has the widest range of engagement rings of any brad in this Top 10 list. In addition to the engagement and wedding rings, Tiffany also offers a constellation of other jewellery items, including designs by some of the most highly-regarded designers, including Elsa Peretti’s, Paloma Picasso, Jean Schlumberger and Francesca Amfitheatrof.
The oldest of the brands listed here, Chaumet’s origins began when Marie-Étienne Nitot, an apprentice to the jeweller of the French Queen, Marie Antoinette, started his own business. Then known as the Nitot jewellery house, it would soon become very popular with the French aristocrats, becoming the official jeweller of the Emperor Napoleon, no less. Nitot made the coronation crown for the Emperor and Empress, and with such credentials, he soon became the most sought-after jeweller among Europe’s aristocracy. The years that followed saw changes in ownership and even the company’s bankruptcy in 1987, before Chaumet was sold to an investment fund. In 1999, it was bought to the LVMH conglomerate, which also owns other luxury brands such as Tag Heuer, Fred, Hublot and Christian Dior.
In: Sonvilier, Switzerland
The only Swiss brand in the Top 10, it’s no surprise that Chopard began as a watchmaking company. Its founder, Louis-Ulysse Chopard, was a Swiss watchmaker who gained a reputation for his exceptionally accurate and technically sophisticated watches. In 1963, with no heir, his grandson sold the company to German jeweller and watchmaker Karl Scheufele, whose family owns the company till this day. Chopard is truly a family business, with Karl Scheufele’s two children, Caroline and her brother Karl-Friedrich serving as co-presidents, overseeing the watch and jewellery divisions, respectively.
Fittingly, Chopard is now renowned for both their exceptional high jewellery and their excellent watches. The company has been a long time sponsor of the Cannes Film Festival and the Monaco F1 Grand Prix—Chopard’s jewellery adorn many of the stars on the red carpet of the Film Festival while their watches and timers are an integral part of the Monaco F1.