Columnists Mia Katrin The Madoff Plunder - Record auction sales benefit victims

The Madoff Plunder - Record auction sales benefit victims

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A platinum Edwardian emerald and diamond link bracelet.  Pre-Victorian era diamond earrings.  Over 40 watches including 17 Rolexes, one a famed WWII “prisoner watch” valued at $87,000. They were all part of the spoils from the estate of Bernie Madoff, the notorious swindler who bilked investors out of billions in the most devastating Ponzi scheme in history. Madoff is now serving a sentence of 150 years in a NC prison. His wife Ruth, who has not been charged, worked out a deal with prosecutors forfeiting a claim to $80 million in assets. She will be left with $2.5 million.

The US Marshals auction on November 14 by Texas-based auctioneers Gaston & Sheehan was a fascinating glimpse into the lifestyles of the rich and infamous. According to Roland Ubaldo, a spokesman for the US Marshals Service, about $1 million was raised, doubling expectations. The proceeds go to a fund set up to pay restitution to victims.

It’s a sign of the times. The greed, the excess, the conspicuous consumption, the lack of social conscience or morality. Many of Madoff’s targets were friends and associates. Elderly couples were robbed of their life’s savings. Philanthropies and non-profits helping the most needy were also hit. It’s a reminder that white collar crime has real victims.

Two pairs of Ruth Madoff’s diamond dangle earrings sold for $70,000 each: Lot No. 201, Cartier Art Deco onyx and diamond earrings, estimated pre-auction at $9,800, and Lot No. 218, gold, silver and diamond earrings pre-valued at $21,400.

The jewelry was simple and conservative, much of it in onyx, diamonds and gold, made by prestigious firms such as Bulgari, Hermes, Chaumet and David Webb, according to the Toronto Star. The sale opened with lively bidding for Ruth’s gold bracelet with whale, lighthouse and shell charms, pre-valued at $1000, selling for $3500. Bernie’s Hofstra College ring, estimated at $360, fetched $6,000.

The most highly prized item in the sale, the Rolex “prisoner watch,” brought only $65,000. All the watches were made in Switzerland, where the international swindler wreaked billions of dollars in losses. Madoff, reportedly wanting his watches in impeccable condition, had them restored, thereby devaluing them for collectors.

Perhaps the most surprising feature was the banality of the offerings. The Madoff’s illicit fortune, staggering by any standards, approximated $65 billion, including numerous yachts and the three homes where most of the trove was seized - their Upper East Side apartment, the beach house in Montauk and the Palm Beach spread. Yet the Madoffs were not connoisseurs or aficionados.  They displayed no exceptional taste. “I can’t imagine wearing any of this. I think it is so garish,” said Lark Mason of “The Antiques Roadshow” fame. “The items look good with a superficial surface appeal. I think that sums up Mr. Madoff.” (quoted in Reuters.com, Nov. 13, 2009) Auction items included funky knick-knacks, such as a cow-shaped creamer, and a collection of Swatches. This was simply accumulation for its own sake, greed gone amok.

Fascination with celebrity mixed with desire to benefit the victims fueled the bidding.

One St. Louis businessman, Lester Miller, 77, bought about 20 bracelets, spending roughly $100,000. He said he would divide them amongst his daughters and granddaughters on an upcoming cruise to Mexico. Though he never met Madoff, he knew several Palm Beach victims. He was pleased to help. “I think it’s a nice thing,” Mr. Miller said. “The more you can bid, the better off you are.”  His glittering tokens come with a moral. Asked what he would tell his granddaughters when he gave them the bracelets, he said, “If it’s too good to be true, it’s not right.”  (quoted in The New York Times, Nov. 15, 2009)

Mia Katrin is an award-winning, internationally celebrated couture jewelry designer specializing in high-end necklaces with precious gems in 18-22 karat gold as well as the new affordably priced Jewel Casual Collection. Her Collections, which have been worn by A-List Hollywood celebrities, are featured in many top galleries and stores throughout the country, where she regularly hosts Trunk Shows. Contact Mia via her website, http://jeweljewel.com, e-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or call 1- 877 JEWEL-MY (539-3569).

 
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