In Conversation with Paul Redmayne

In Conversation with Paul Redmayne

We sat down with our new Head of Private Sales, Jewelry, to learn more about his journey to Phillips on the road less traveled and the department’s new online selling platform, Flawless.

We sat down with our new Head of Private Sales, Jewelry, to learn more about his journey to Phillips on the road less traveled and the department’s new online selling platform, Flawless.

Head of Private Sales, Jewelry, Paul Redmayne

Earlier this year, Phillips brought on Paul Redmayne to lead the expansion of private sales within the fast-growing Jewels department. Paul has had a long career in jewelry, encompassing a wide variety of roles that brought him from London to Paris, Dubai, Hong Kong and beyond. After 20 years of working in the retail space, Paul made the transition to auction in 2017 and hasn't looked back since. We caught up with Paul to learn more about his experience, the transition to Phillips and what's next for Phillips Jewels private sales.

PHILLIPS: Tell us more about how you started your career in jewelry. 

PAUL REDMAYNE: My career has really gone full circle. I was in my 2nd year of studying French at King’s College London when a friend asked me if I wanted to join a group ski trip. An impoverished student, I said I couldn’t and was actually looking for a job over the Christmas vacation. He suggested I take his job at Cartier and subsequently arranged a meeting. It had an exceptionally glamourous title - Wrapper Runner - and my role was to assist the sales team by gift wrapping whatever was handed to me and then jumping in a taxi to deliver the goods. On day one, I went to a recording studio in Soho and was shown into a room where Paul McCartney handed me a glass of orange juice and promptly signed for his delivery. I had immense fun and after 2 weeks of doing "gifties,” the manager suggested I spend Saturdays and vacations in the showroom helping out.

As part of my year abroad in France, I worked at Cartier’s iconic global flagship just off Place Vendome. Cartier subsequently offered me a full-time position in sales and I worked for them for a few years and left to crew on a yacht in the Caribbean, eventually sailing back to the UK from Antigua. I then went to Cameroon where I worked as a volunteer running a chimpanzee rescue center for 6 months. On returning to London, I started working at the LVMH jeweler Fred. Fred moved me back to Paris and I later left to join Harry Winston. That was my first entry into the rarefied world of couture haute joaillerie where in addition to selling Wreath and Cluster necklaces, we would make bespoke sets – often to clients who would cross Avenue Montaigne from Chanel or Dior with a sample or photo of their couture dress.

After that, I moved back to London with Moussaieff where my High Jewelry Apprenticeship continued with unrivaled exposure to the most incredible gemstones and diamonds of every color: blues, pinks, chameleons, the famous Moussaieff Red…. In 2011 David Morris approached me to head up their Asia operation out of Hong Kong which was where all the action was and that’s been home since then.

After 20 years in retail and with the continuous slowdown across the sector, I made the decision to hop across the tracks and joined the auction world in 2017 at Bonhams in Hong Kong.

Jewelry has been wonderfully generous to me: I met my wife through work in Dubai and the Cartier Manager who effectively launched my career which gifted me my family came to my stag party, and, as for the chap who donated his Christmas job at Cartier, he’s the son of the ex-MD of Phillips from many moons ago.

P: What made you move from retail to auction in 2017, after 20 years in the business?

PR: I felt I’d done my time in retail and I wanted a change. 5 years in Hong Kong, 7 years in Paris and the remainder in London, but somehow it all felt the same. Since the digital landscape recalibrated our lives and daily interactions, as we all know, retail has been struggling and luxury retail has suffered even more in the new quest for identity. When I started out, we used to type letters and fax clients during business hours, now we WhatsApp them at midnight. I've been fortunate to have such a global experience and it's been absolutely key in informing how I interact with clients around the world.

It got to the stage where I was losing too many clients to auction houses so I thought, I need to be on the other side of the desk here. I simply couldn’t compete either on price or on the sheer breadth of offering that auction provides: you want Cartier, there you go. Art Deco Van Cleef, would you like the earrings to go with that necklace? A pair of 10ct Vivid Pinks at market price minus the retail margin? It just so happens I know a guy… Working as a specialist, my loyalty lies firmly with the client rather than any particular brand, and I can source whatever they may be looking for, from signed pieces to loose stones. Since we don't own the property, we can offer impartial expertise and I think that's the major benefit to buying with a house like Phillips. I have no regrets whatsoever about making this transition.

P: What do you love most about your job?

PR: Where do I start? The diversity and sheer beauty of jewelry, the stones, the tangible history that goes through your hands, the knowledge, the stories, the people. Colleagues and clients alike. The auction world is a delicious patchwork of eccentrics and I fully include myself in that assertion. It felt like coming home for me. It takes a certain mind to decide to dedicate one’s entire life to, say, jewelry or watches or contemporary art. In retail you see career-salespeople who have crossed from handbags to shoes to watches to jewelry to ready-to-wear, gleaning a certain knowledge in each that doesn’t come close to the depth of expertise even junior specialists acquire in the auction world. I love talking to auction colleagues and one constant is the excitement and enthusiasm in their voices and eyes whenever they talk about what they’re working on. The same passion cannot be said for many other businesses.

P: What can you tell us about Flawless, the new Private Sales division of Phillips Jewels?

PR: Flawless came about after a huge number of conversations over a period of several months. I had spent 2 years learning the ropes, seeing firsthand how an auction house works and what makes the market tick, and then I was approached by Phillips who were keen to set up a Private Sales division for Jewelry. Their vision, enthusiasm and innovative hunger for taking the path less traveled resonated deeply with me.

We're known for our private selling exhibitions with contemporary jewelers, and we do have several shows planned which, due to the circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak, have been postponed until later this year. But we're eager to share those shows soon. We're building out our presence digitally and are very excited about our new online viewing room, which we plan to keep stocked with fresh property on a perpetual basis. And as always, I'm kept very busy with private clients who approach Phillips looking to buy and sell privately. No matter the circumstances, the market for the highest-quality jewels remains constant and keeps us super busy. As collectors and investors know all too well: the profit’s in the purchase.