40 Years Ago

Claire Adams MacKinnon, Courtesy of National Trust of Australia. Leonard Joel Auctions

In 1990 I was a young auction store person at Leonard Joel (I prefer the English expression “porter”, but I will keep this real!) with an interest in jewellery, and I was lucky enough to have been mentored by Graham Joel, who gave me a long leash as I tried to win exciting business.

40 Years of Jewellery at Leonard Joel
An antique pearl and diamond pendant, discovered in an unremarkable box of costume jewellery and sold for the Australian record price of $146,400

In that same year, I went head-to-head with Christie’s for a wonderful Melbourne jewellery collection, The Birnszweg Collection. When it was confirmed that we had in fact won the collection, my dad, Kurt Albrecht, told me with pride that it was the most important collection of jewellery to come onto the auction market since the Claire Adams MacKinnon (the woman who graces our cover) collection of 1981; also sold by Leonard Joel. I had never heard of the famous Hollywood silent movie actress, but I was pleased with Leonard Joel’s success with this pitch as dad had also advised me that it was the most important collection of jewellery ever sold in Australia. And so that’s where we mark the beginning of the Leonard Joel jewellery department; 40 years ago, when we were entrusted to sell the Claire Adams MacKinnon Collection.

Where all those jewels are now is anyone’s guess. Some would surely still reside in Australia, but most I’m sure have found their way to international collections. No records being available at Leonard Joel from this time make the task of finding pieces from it a tantalisingly difficult one, so I would be delighted to hear from a client that reads this and may, just may, still own a memory from that auction in McKillop Street Melbourne. Since then, we have been honoured to have managed every significant jewellery collection that has come to auction in this country. The Birnszweg Collection, that I have already mentioned, The Kozminsky Collection, The Schlager Collection, and most recently, The John T Hinkley Collection, from our Sydney salerooms. 

At Leonard Joel we love jewellery; the discovery it brings and the research it demands,
and now, 40 years on, we state with great pride that we now provide our clients the largest Fine and Important jewellery marketplace in Australia, one that holds the record for the three most expensive diamond rings ever sold at public auction. As our 41st year approaches, and like every year, we look forward to the next discovery and hopefully, setting new records for our clients.

JOHN ALBRECHT / Chairman / Head of Important Collections

November 2021

Banner Image: Claire Adams MacKinnon, Courtesy of National Trust of Australia. Leonard Joel Auctions