This past weekend, the London marathon returned to the capital and welcomed streets piled full of cheering supporters. And as is tradition, the marathoners ran the home straight down The Mall. The morning after, however, the surrounding streets were empty and quiet, the dust had settled on the festivities and Westminster had resumed to its normal commuter flow.

In the heart of St James’s, just north of The Mall, lays King Street, home to British auction house Christie’s since 1823. Red flags bearing the Christie’s emblem, flutter in the April wind. The historic grandeur of this Renaissance-style building makes it a fitting location for a glimpse at the largest and most valuable private jewellery collection to ever come to auction.

The astonishing collection of the late Heidi Horten is on tour in New York, Singapore, Taipei and London, ahead of a four-part auction online and at Christie’s in Geneva next month. From an early age, Mrs Heidi Horten grew up surrounded by objects of great beauty from her father, who was an engraver, and later during her first marriage to German businessman Helmut Horten (whom she inherited an estimated £2.7 billion from in 1987), when she began to refine her eye for jewellery and works of art. Over six decades, philanthropist Horten quietly amassed some of the finest jewellery and this new auction is set to feature over 700 of her iconic pieces.

I’m drawn to the timeless collection of Bvlgari jewels, collected from the 1970s to the present day, which shimmer in piercing emerald and vibrant sapphire blue under the display lights. The best thing about an auction preview is that I can try on some of the best pieces. So I try on a bangle, made from 18k yellow gold, baguette cut diamonds, and emeralds, punctuated with a central large over-shaped sapphire. Its hardware moves with ease when flexed and the bangle expands effortlessly over my wrist. “It’s not like silk, it won't break if you touch it,” I’m assured, “these pieces were made to be worn.

Mrs Horten was a firm believer in getting use out of her collection. I‘m told she hired an in-house jewellery dresser so she could wear one set in the morning and switch it over once she was bored of it in the afternoon. She kept the collection immaculate and replaced and fixed breakages as soon as she could. Her devotion to this collection can be seen in its pristine condition, and these beautiful pieces, seen together in one place, truly honour her legacy.

Other standout pieces include ‘The Great Mughal’, a Harry Winston-designed huge emerald pendant (8.2cm wide to be precise), beautifully carved to depict a scene from the ancient Indian epic poem The Ramayan, framed by endless round diamonds and suspended from a decorative chain – set to amass between over $500,000; and a pair of Köchert cascading chandelier earrings, which I am also told Mrs Horten had made in several different colours because she loved the style so much.

“The World of Heidi Horten is the collection of a lifetime. From Bulgari to Van Cleef & Arpels, from a small personal memory piece to the Briolette of India, this is a collector’s dream,” says Rahul Kadakia, Christie’s International Head of Jewellery.

Proceeds from the auction will be directed to Mrs Horten’s philanthropic wishes, all going to medical research and initiatives she championed for many decades, as well as the Heidi Horten Foundation, established in 2020 in support of the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art she founded in Vienna, and opened just 10 days before her passing on 2nd June 2022. With a pre-sale estimate of $150 million, the auction is set to eclipse the $116m Elizabeth Taylor’s private collection fetched back in 2011.

Some key pieces are available for an exclusive viewing at the St James’ flagship until Thursday 27th of April.

Discover more about The World of Hiedi Horten at