Austrian Billionaire Heidi Horten's US$150m jewellery collection set to break records at Christie's

This May, during the Luxury Week in Geneva, Christie's is poised to break auction records by presenting The World of Heidi Horten – a series of sales dedicated to the personal jewellery collection of the late Austrian philanthropist and art collector.

With a pre-sale estimate of more than US$150 million, it is set to be the largest and most valuable private jewellery collection ever to come to auction. It also sits amongst previous record-breaking sales of the Elizabeth Tayler Collection in 2011, and the Maharajas & Mughal Magnificence auction in 2019 – the only two jewellery collections in history to realise more than US$100 million. 

Stand-out lots from the enormous 700-piece collection include the 90.38-carat ‘Briolette of India’ diamond necklace by Harry Winston, the 25-carat Cartier 'Sunrise Ruby' and diamond ring, as well as an important selection of jade pieces.

Heidi Horten wearing the 90.38-carat ‘Briolette of India’ diamond necklace

The Briolette of India, a 90-carat, D-colour diamond necklace by Harry Winston | Estimate on request

Born in Vienna in 1941, Heidi Horten met her future husband Helmut Horten at a bar when she was 19. At the time, she was a secretary in a Viennese law firm, while Helmut Horten, then 51, was a renowned German entrepreneur who built up and owned Horten AG, the fourth-largest department store chains in Germany. 

Sharing interest in art, the couple set about filling their homes with paintings after marrying in 1966. Together, they began building what later became a nearly billion-dollar art collection, with key works including pieces by Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Andy Warhol, among others.

Also passionate about jewellery, they acquired exceptional vintage and contemporary jewels from the most prestigious houses, such as Bulgari, Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels and Harry Winston. Notably, her Bulgari collection alone ranks as one of the top five of such ever assembled.

After her husband passed away in 1987, Heidi Horten inherited his US$1 billion fortune, which, not only allowed her to expand her collection of art and jewellery, but also made her one of the wealthiest woman in the globe, rated within the world's 500 richest people by Forbes at the time. By the time of her death in 2022, she was reported to have a net worth of US$3 billion.

After marrying her husband in 1966, Heidi Horten began to build a collection of art and jewellery

‘The Sunrise Ruby’ Cartier ruby and diamond ring | Estimate: US$15,000,000 - 20,000,000

In 2018, she teamed up with the Leopold Museum in Vienna and presented 175 artworks from her collection in an exhibition titled WOW! The Heidi Horten Collection. The show turned out to be a tremendous success, as it became that institution’s most-visited exhibition.

Moved by its triumph, Horten was inspired to establish a permanent home for her art. Just ten days before she died, her wish to share her collection with a wider audience was finally fulfilled, with The Heidi Horten Collection in Vienna officially opening to public on 2 June 2022.

As for her long-cherished jewellery collection, Horten decided to pass them on through Christie's auctions this May, all proceeds of which will go to the Heidi Horten Foundation, her medical research and other philanthropic activities, which she has supported for many decades.

In 2018, part of her collection was exhibited at the Leopold Museum

The Heidi Horten Collection opened to the public in 2022

Highlight lots from the sales:

Harry Winston natural and cultured pearl and coloured diamond necklace
Estimate on request

A Bulgari diamond, sapphire and emerald necklace
Estimate on request


A Bulgari coloured diamond and emerald bracelet
Estimate: US$350,000 - 550,000

A Bulgari coloured diamond and diamond booch
Estimate on request

A Fancy Pink diamond of 20.06 carats
Estimate on request

The Great Mughal emerald and diamond necklace by Harry Winston
Estimate: US$500,000 - 700,000

Jadeite bead and diamond necklace
Estimate: US$3,000,000 - 5,000,000

Double-strand jadeite bead necklace, diamond clasp by Cartier
Estimate: US$2,000,000 - 3,000,000

Jadeute cabochon and diamond ring
Estimate: US$300,000 - 500,000

Jadeite cabochon and diamond bracelet
Estimate: US$200,000 - 300,000

Auction Details:

Auction House: Christie's Geneva
Sales and Dates:

  • The World of Heidi Horten: Magnificent Jewels Part I | 10 May 2023
  • The World of Heidi Horten: Magnificent Jewels Part II | 12 May 2023
  • The World of Heidi Horten: Jewels Online | 3 - 15 May 2023