A sneak peek at some of the world’s priciest household objects
Author Boyd Farrow Illustration Peter Oumanski
GERMANY – In an imposing 14th-century castle in the Rheingau wine region, a dozen flummoxed-looking jewelry experts huddle in a reception room. They have been summoned here, without much explanation, by the Wellendorff family, which, for four generations, has made luxe jewelry in Pforzheim, a two-hour drive away. One invitee likens the situation to the opening of an Agatha Christie novel.
Quietly, members of the Wellendorff clan appear—the men straight-backed, the women wearing diamonds as big as a baby’s fist. To the strains of a violin, a master of ceremonies in medieval garb reveals the point of the evening: the unveiling of some one-of-a-kind pieces that family patriarch Hanspeter has been working on for the past five years.
The guests are duly ushered into a series of candlelit rooms, each containing a table bearing a lone blue box. Inside one is a half-million-dollar gold goblet, with a flawless 1-carat diamond set in a rosette. Another cradles a $200,000 letter opener, its handle wound with gold rope and crowned with a ruby. There’s a gold bottle stopper bristling with diamonds ($150,000) and a lapis, gold and diamond desk organizer ($400,000).
“This was purely a labor of love,” says Hanspeter.
With this, he reveals his masterpiece: a 14-inch golden water lily set with 400 precious stones. The piece is priced at $700,000, but Hanspeter seems to have little interest in this kind of value. “There is only one reason someone would want to own this,” he says. “Joy.”