Luxury Christmas gifts: one-of-a-kind ideas for those you love
From jewellery to whisky, watches to rare books, vintage champagne to must-have handbags — 25 very special gift ideas available only through Christie’s auctions, online sales and private sales
To celebrate the holiday season, the jewellery designer Michele della Valle created this jolly snowman brooch. His hat, scarf and broom are encrusted with brightly coloured gems, while his arms and feet are studded with diamonds that glisten like freshly fallen snow.
Never miss a beat
In 2019 the streetwear brand Supreme applied its iconic red-and-white logo to a drum kit by Pearl. Reportedly fewer than 100 were issued and, as with all things Supreme, they sold out almost immediately. This kit features two toms, a bass, a snare and a floor tom, as well as a full set of Zildjian cymbals — in short, everything you need to channel your inner Phil Collins.
The joy of jade
Snuff bottles, originally designed to contain finely ground tobacco, have been given as gifts in China since the 18th century. Jade examples, such as this pair, were particularly popular at the imperial court. Collectors today value their rich colours and fine polishing — but they can also be put to practical use, repurposed as perfume decanters.
Sylvie Fleury’s ‘huggable’ paintings question traditional ideas about the role of art. A yellow one was a hit at Art Basel in 2018, and a blue example is in the permanent collection of MoMA in New York. This pink version, an ideal size for cosying up to this winter, is being sold by Christie’s to benefit RxART, a charity that supports art programmes in children’s hospitals across the United States.
A royal whisky
In 1953, the year Queen Elizabeth II ascended the throne, a new Scotch was born in Strathisla, the oldest working distillery in the Scottish Highlands. It was given the name Royal Salute, after the famous 21-gun salute used to celebrate state and royal occasions.
Offered directly from the distillery’s own collection, this whisky was bottled in 2003 in honour of the 50th anniversary of the Queen’s coronation. The bottle is decorated with a solid silver and 24-carat gold crest and comes in a presentation box with a key and letter of authenticity.
The holy grail of handbags
This model of the classic Hermès Birkin has been handcrafted from the hide of a Nile crocodile. It’s called the Himalaya version because the reptile’s skin has been painstakingly dyed smoky grey and pearl-white, to resemble the peaks of the snow-capped mountain range. In 2020, Christie’s sold a matte white Himalaya Niloticus Crocodile Birkin 25 for $388,738, setting a new Birkin auction world record.
Artist on the up
This vibrant oil painting by the American artist Aaron Garber-Maikovska could make an ideal gift for someone looking to start a savvy art collection. Since the artist’s breakout in 2015, his abstract paintings have been known to sell for three or four times their estimate at auction — occasionally achieving six-figure sums. With recent solo shows at Massimo de Carlo in London and Blum & Poe in Los Angeles, Garber-Maikovska’s rise looks set to continue.
Portrait of the scientist
In 1951, after celebrating his 72nd birthday at the Princeton Club, Albert Einstein posed for what would become his most famous portrait. The moment was captured by Arthur Sasse, a photographer for United Press International, who said to the scientist sitting in the back seat of the car that was to drive him home: ‘Professor, smile for your birthday picture.’
Einstein was such a fan of the image he later asked for Sasse’s permission to use it on his own personalised greeting cards.
A mythical beast
Despite its snarling fangs, this mythical beast — a ‘luduan’ — is said to bring its owner good luck and wisdom. It’s also thought to be able to speak every language in the world. Made during the Ming dynasty, this one doubles up as a censer and was designed to disperse the smoke from smouldering incense. Two other luduan censers flank the throne in the Hall of Supreme Harmony in Beijing’s Forbidden City.
‘I switch perfumes all the time,’ Andy Warhol once said. ‘If I’ve been wearing one perfume for three months, I force myself to give it up, even if I still feel like wearing it, so whenever I smell it again it will remind me of those three months.’
This Polaroid of some of Warhol’s favourite scents was shot as part of an advertising campaign for his friend Halston, whom he called the ‘first all-American fashion designer’.
A timepiece to treasure
Since its foundation in 1999, Richard Mille has taken precision watchmaking to a new level. The RM005 model, introduced in 2004, was the first to use a variable geometry rotor to optimise its self-winding mechanism according to the wearer’s lifestyle. It also features a titanium baseplate fixed to the case on shock-absorbing rubber mounts. For technical timepiece aficionados, this is the benchmark of excellence.
Now pay attention, 007: Bond first editions
During an intense period of creativity between 1953 and 1966, Ian Fleming wrote 14 James Bond books. Working on a gold typewriter at his beachfront home, Goldeneye, in Jamaica, he reshaped the spy-fiction genre with works including Casino Royale, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and Diamonds Are Forever. All the books in this complete set are impeccably dressed in their original dustjackets.
A Cartier necklace
If you want to stand out from the crowd at a festive cocktail party, look no further than this charming Cartier necklace. The spectacular centrepiece, constructed from sapphires, emeralds and rubies, features a mother elephant and her calf trotting along beneath a crescent moon and surrounded by blooming flowers.
Koekkoek’s Winter Scene
Barend Cornelis Koekkoek was the most important painter of the Dutch Romantic period. He frequently produced drawings directly from nature, which he later worked up into paintings in the studio. The subtle treatment of light and multi-layered pictorial planes in this work are remarkable even by his high standards. The villagers burning firewood add narrative intrigue, while also creating a deep field of vision, adding to the illusion of three-dimensional space. Formerly owned by the late Fürstin Marie zu Wied, Princess of the Netherlands, it comes to market for the first time in almost 30 years.
A historic Enigma machine
Tap into one of the most compelling stories of the Second World War with this three-rotor Enigma machine. Invented in 1918 by the German engineer Arthur Scherbius, it was used extensively by the Nazis to communicate top-secret diplomatic and military messages.
The machine’s code was eventually cracked by a team of cryptographers, engineers and mathematicians stationed at Bletchley Park in England, enabling the Allies to exploit Enigma-enciphered messages as a source of intelligence. It has been calculated that the three-rotor Enigma, with a plugboard in use, could produce a total of 15 quintillion possible readings for each character.
Cartier’s cult ‘Baignoire’ watch
In 1912 Louis Cartier took the traditional design for his round watches and stretched it. The result was the ‘Baignoire’ (meaning ‘bathtub’ in French), a model that has since become a cult classic. This luxurious version is studded with 79 round diamonds and features Cartier’s signature Roman numerals and blue sword-shaped hands.
The Belle Epoque in a bottle
Christie’s international director of Wine and Spirits, Tim Triptree MW, describes Perrier-Jouët’s Cuvée Belle Epoque 2000 as a ‘gastronomic champagne’ with rich and complex aromatics. There will be plenty to go around when the cork is popped on this jeroboam, since it contains three litres of finely textured fizz — equivalent to four bottles. Expect notes of grilled hazelnuts, almonds, mocha and dried apricots, as well as hints of mango and guava.
‘We three kings’
‘My drawings are energetic, but I am not,’ the self-deprecating Quentin Blake told Christie’s in 2019. This signed illustration of the pilgrimage of the Three Kings (riding on reindeer rather than the usual camels) is offered as part of a dedicated sale of new Blake drawings, running online between 30 November and 14 December. Although the design was originally intended for a Christmas card, it will hang handsomely in any interior.
A place for daydreams
The Swiss-born, Paris-based furniture designer Mattia Bonetti is best known for bold, one-off pieces that span a range of styles, from neo-Baroque to Surrealist. This unique daybed, upholstered in fluffy white goatskin, was commissioned from Bonetti’s studio by Victoria, Lady de Rothschild, in 2020. Just the ticket for a snooze after lunch.
If you’re after a quirky stocking filler, this presentation box of Fabergé Imperial Collection vodka might do the trick. The decanter of super-premium vodka — distilled from wheat and rye with water from Lake Ladoga — is presented inside a malachite-green imitation Fabergé egg, with crystal and gold-coloured details, topped with a gold eagle. Also included are four shot glasses with gold and enamel decoration. Na zdorovie!
‘I make sure that my pictures are not too erotic and that they always have a trace of humour,’ Mel Ramos once said. ‘I make sure they are “in good taste”. Either you understand it or not.’ Executed in 2017 and cast in polished stainless steel, Dita follows on from the artist’s ‘Miss Martini’ series. Place her centre stage and you’re sure to cause a stir.
Jewels from antiquity
There’s no better way to embrace the trend for sustainable shopping than opting for antiques over buying new. And when it comes to purchasing ancient jewellery, the good news is that original pieces can be surprisingly affordable. With their bold colours and slender forms, ancient designs can look very modern, while also being a fun way to start a collection. Coming fresh to market in December are these two pairs of Greek and Roman gold earrings. Wear with a black cocktail dress for maximum impact.
Yves Saint Laurent sketches
In October Christie’s offered a group of 28 drawings by Yves Saint Laurent which achieved a combined total of £1,559,500, with all the works selling above estimate. If you missed the chance to bid, another group of 12 sketches by the French fashion legend — ranging from design ideas to erotica — comes to auction in December.
Among the star lots is the above drawing for his first ready-to-wear collection, Rive Gauche, launched in 1966, in which Saint Laurent paid homage to his artistic heroes Piet Mondrian and Tom Wesselmann by printing their paintings on his shift dresses. The corresponding evening gown was later worn by Catherine Deneuve.
The chimes of bronze bells were a key component of sacred rituals performed under the Zhou dynasty (1046-256 BC). During the reign of the Qianlong Emperor (1735-1796), 11 bozhong — flat-bottomed Zhou-dynasty ritual bells — were unearthed in Linjiangfu in Jiangxi province, and subsequently presented to the imperial court.
Sign up today
Christie’s Online Magazine delivers our best features, videos, and auction news to your inbox every week
The emperor was so taken by the bells that he composed eight poems in celebration of them. It is thought that they also provided the inspiration for this archaistic cloisonné enamel example. Featuring a loop-and-dragon decoration, it is covered in rich, lustrous glazes.
Portrait of a Pre-Raphaelite
In December 1853, William Holman Hunt sat down for a portrait-sketching session with his fellow Pre-Raphaelite John Everett Millais. The charming result, which Millais said was ‘pronounced to be very like’, has an intimacy that suggests the two close friends were drawing together for pure pleasure.
It has since been exhibited at the National Gallery, the Royal Academy and the Victoria and Albert Museum, while Millais’s portrait of Hunt from the same sitting now hangs in the National Portrait Gallery.