Under the Virtual Hammer: SaffronArt's Online Auction
Despite the benefits of shopping online, for some the need to physically examine and experience a product overpowers the other advantages. In India, especially, when it comes to clothes, we like to feel the fabric and experience it before buying-more so, if we're spending a mini-fortune on it. Of course, when it comes to jewellery, it's almost gasp-worthy to even consider buying jewellery online, especially precious jewellery. However, it does happen. We're referring not only to classic gold hoops, or diamond studs, which cost the basic value of materials used, but also of heritage jewellery, heirlooms and exceptional pieces. Such descriptions befit goods often sold by auction houses like Christie's and Sotheby's, doesn't it? However, given the scale of trading that the web covers, it should come as no surprise that there are auction houses that operate only on the Internet. And SaffronArt is one such portal.
A Virtual Beginning
Started by Minal and Dinesh Vazirani about 10 years ago, SaffronArt was set up to make bidding for art convenient for collectors. Being based abroad, they didn't enjoy unconditional access to the fine art that came out of India. "We wanted to give people the option of looking up art prices online. Later, because of the transparency, we included jewellery and eventually, even watches," explains Minal, President of SaffronArt. "The online medium has greater reach, and that is an added benefit, beyond the accessibility and transparency of prices that it brings about."
Since then, it's been a success story for SaffronArt. Making art, jewellery and other fine products more accessible is something that SaffronArt is striving to achieve, having made breakthroughs by enabling bidding from mobile devices such as BlackBerry handsets.
Since the first online auction in December 2000, which saw sales worth USD 1,20,000, SaffronArt has come a long way, racking up sales of up to USD 17 million. This success is also attributed to their mantra, which is to keep everything clear and transparent. Moreover, every piece that they sell undergoes tedious valuation and verification processes, based on which they issue an authenticity guarantee. Today, they retail watches like Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Van Cleef & Arpels, Jaquet Droz, Cartier and Tiffany. "In jewellery, we sell really exceptional period pieces, with gemstones ranging from pearls to tanzanite," Minal discloses. "As opposed to approaching local jewellers, who will offer you only the material value of the piece, this medium is an excellent way for people to retail their heirloom jewellery and garner good value for it,"?
However, there are many who continue to harbour reservations about buying precious jewellery online, which is why SaffronArt holds regular previews of the items that go under the hammer. This allows prospective buyers to experience the pieces slated for auction. If a piece is not included in a preview, they allow customers to see it prior to its auction. "We once had some South-Sea pearls that didn't photograph really well, so we warned our clients about the hues not doing justice to the piece," relates Minal. "For such exceptional pieces, special previews are arranged for serious bidders to see the real thing."
Would you be more willing to buying precious jewellery online if you were guaranteed the option of reselling it via the same medium? If yes, then SaffronArt, like most auction houses, helps you resell goods purchased through them. "We include jewellery being resold in a future auction, offering subsequent customers the price that it was originally bought for," explains Minal.
Of course, if buying goods online comes with guarantees and options beyond the initial purchase, it holds greater appeal. So even as many remain sceptical of shopping online, one has to acknowledge the power of the Internet, and its indisputable reach. More importantly, shopping on the Internet is here to stay! So, click away.