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How social media is changing the luxury collectibles industry

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In April 2019, Tiffany & Co. hosted a glamorous party to mark the opening of its flagship store on Pitt Street in Sydney. Guests sipped champagne and rubbed shoulders with international supermodels and celebrities, all brand ambassadors for the jeweller. Of course, images of the A-listers draped in Tiffany diamonds were all over Instagram. Most breathtaking was the infamous iconic Tiffany Diamond, a 128.54-carat gemstone, which is one of the world’s largest yellow diamonds and rumoured to value at $42.4 million. 

The classic fine jewellery brand has strategically worked to attract younger buyers through celebrity influencers and social media. Its efforts mirror a larger change in the collectibles market, especially luxury goods, which are surging in popularity among younger buyers. Social media has transformed the way that collectors discover and share items, connect with other enthusiasts, and engage with their passions. It has influenced which items attract record prices and how purchases are made. Ultimately, it has opened the door to the luxury goods for a new generation of collectors.

Democratising the world of luxury

In the past, the collectibles industry largely relied on offline networks and physical marketplaces. Collectors discovered items through traditional channels, such as retail stores, galleries, auction houses, and specialised publications. With the internet, some turned to online platforms or marketplaces like eBay, but these early sites were cumbersome, and most people wouldn’t buy an item worth thousands of dollars or more without seeing it face-to-face. For the most part, learning about and shopping for pieces still required collectors to show up in person.

Social media platforms changed nearly everything about the collectibles marketplace. Barriers to entry for learning about and participating in the industry are drastically lower. Now, anyone can discover novel and rare pieces by following prominent collectors, experts, or artists. Influencers, including celebrities, are playing an outsized role in raising trends for certain luxury collectibles — such as watches, jewellery, handbags, sports memorabilia — and are also influencing an upcoming generation of collectors. Younger generations are becoming much more interested in collecting as an investment and buying items they can show off through online profiles, signalling their values and individuality.

Collectors also have access to a plethora of online communities, allowing them to exchange information and connect with like-minded individuals in real time, regardless of background or location. It’s easy for experts and novices alike to consume educational content, learn the backstory to compelling pieces and ask questions of fellow collectors. One example is “Gem X,” a private virtual community for jewellery enthusiasts founded in 2017. The group hosts online educational talks open to the public and members can access in-person events or connect with the community through online and social media channels. Groups like these make previously rarified knowledge broadly accessible. Collectors are inclined to trust the artists or professionals the club highlights because of its clout and the values it represents.

Social media has also revolutionised the way collectors acquire items. Paying large sums for pieces online has become commonplace, fuelled in large part by the ease of transactions. Buyers can now make purchases through social media platforms with a few clicks, without even re-entering payment information. The growth of financing options, faster shipping and better return policies have further removed friction in the purchasing process. Some jewellery and watch brands now exclusively sell online, some with occasional pop-up stores. Collectors also buy and trade from one another in instant messaging apps and other online communities. Overall, social media has gone a long way toward democratising the collecting landscape.


How to safeguard your collectibles

The growing prominence of social media in collecting also comes with new risks. Here are tips for how collectors can protect their investments:

  • Do your homework  Before buying something online, do your research on both the seller and the item. When it comes to the vendor, do they demonstrate relevant expertise in the collectible item? What do influencers in the space or online reviewers say about them? Have other collectors in your network bought from them? Next, make sure you dive deep into the item, requesting a report on its condition, high-resolution photos, and provenance documents. For diamonds, request a GIA Lab report to validate information about the 4Cs — cut, carat weight, clarity and colour. You can also request a video call to get a closer look. Many categories, such as pre-owned watches, have no formal accreditations, making it that much more important to buy only from trusted sellers. 

  • Watch what you post — After learning and connecting with other enthusiasts online, it can be tempting to document your collection on social media. It makes sense that you’d be excited to share your purchases or show support for artists and brands you love. Yet it’s wise to be mindful of what you’re posting and when. These days, it’s easy for people to figure out where you live or work. Sharing details of your location or environment, along with images of high-value items, can make you a target for theft or burglary. Err on the conservative side and don’t overshare on social media and try to keep your posts as anonymous as possible.

  • Get insured  Given all the money and energy you’ve invested in your collection, it’s important to have the right insurance to cover your assets for the long term or help you rebuild if the worst happens. A broker can help you find the best coverage for your needs. You’ll want to choose an insurer that has access to specialists in collectibles and take out an accidental damage policy with worldwide coverage specifically covering valuable articles. Look over your policy every year to make sure it reflects any new purchases. Get your collection reappraised at least every three to five years — or annually for items in hot markets, such as luxury watches or signed sports memorabilia.


Navigating a changing landscape

Social media has altered the collecting market forever. Platforms like Instagram, TikTok and WhatsApp have opened this traditionally cloistered world to younger generations and a broader swath of people than ever before. Influencers are driving up prices and drawing attention to new artists and categories. Collectors can now educate themselves, connect with peers and make purchases with a few clicks. It may not be as glamorous as selfies from a Tiffany & Co. bash, but risk management is a critical piece of making sure collectors protect their passion in today’s evolving environment.   

Does your collection have the right insurance coverage?

At Chubb, we insure luxury items as part of our Masterpiece Home and Contents policy. Learn more about how our Masterpiece policy can help cover the special pieces you’ve acquired over the years.

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