Cash in, cash out: Pharrell Williams sells a massive stock of personal effects, including the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Skeleton Perpetual Calendar he wore in his 2004 ‘Frontin” video and a diamond-set 18-karat yellow gold Lorraine Schwartz ear ring of a 23.7 carat sapphire. And that’s just the beginning. The auction, dubbed “Son of Pharaoh,” officially launches the multi-hyphenated superstar’s latest venture: Joopiter, a new auction site aimed at a crowd that appreciates a NERD-encrusted belt buckle. diamonds but expects the type of white-glove service found at old-guard establishments such as Christie’s and Sotheby’s.
At first, the site will exclusively sell items from high-profile curators (mostly friends of Pharrell, who seem to be made up of a who’s-who of the singularly cool), but there’s more – apparently a lot more – to come from the co-producer. of Neptunes. “It’s crazy what I’m offering” for the Son of a Pharaoh auction, he says, but he still has “probably three or four times more than what I’m going to drop. So it’s going to get crazy.” This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
When in your life did you start to consider yourself a collector?
I never woke up one day deciding that I was going to be a collector. I think I was very inspired and very ambitious, and the things that I thought were really good, that were above the norm and that raised the bar, were the things that caught my attention, and what I worked very hard to be able to afford. Before I knew it, I had amassed a little treasure, a little treasure. At some point it became really undeniable that I, too, was not only a collector but a curator.
Why did you feel it was time to get rid of so many of your personal items? Why now?
I’ve amassed so much over the past 30 years – I just watched the other day, and August 25, 1992, it was like the first thing I ever released, and it went double platinum . And I get the call from the accountant to be like, “Man, you’re archiving so much stuff at this point. Will you use them one day? I held on to those things because I think they continued to rise in value. The investment has just tripled, if not more, but what do I do? I don’t use this stuff. I don’t wear that stuff. I don’t drive these things.
What were the hardest parts to separate?
The 26-carat Asscher-cut yellow diamond and the Asscher-cut white diamond over 20 carats. I was like, “Whoa, am I really doing this?” But you know what? It’s time.
When it comes to your jewelry, how deeply do you dive into the quality of the stone?
Lorraine Schwartz taught me a lot about stones and quality, clarity and color and how to make sure stones are cut correctly so they are not too heavy or too large. I learned a lot from Jacob Arabo, also known as Jacob the jeweler, he taught me a lot too. It all went into a lot of these pieces. These were all my drawings, by the way.
Why create your own auction platform? Why not use the heritage houses?
I started thinking about where I would like to sell and what I would like to sell. It’s such a wide range, all from the BBC [Billionaire Boys Club] and from Ice Cream and Bathing Ape prototypes to jewelry I’ve created. There’s a lot of stuff and it’s super expensive. There are so many different sites and auction houses we had to go to – there was no, like, one stop shop. We love and respect auction houses that have been around for hundreds of years, but they also have a very different cultural imprint.
How will Joopiter be different?
We still need to have that high quality service and be able to bring any type of item or valuable and make it welcome to everyone and make it very inclusive . And it’s not just in the makeup but also in the presentation. I just started thinking, “How can I create a product or site destination that feels new, something that feels fresh?” It takes everything you would expect from an auction house, but elevates it and spreads it more widely.
Describe the presentation.
We’re going to bring in the people doing the auctions and do 20-30 minute articles about the items, telling their story. From my perspective, it’s like going to a high-end thrift store and buying a pair of jeans from 1949, someone tells you they’re from 1949 and they’ll probably cost you six or seven hundred dollars, is not it ? But if I show you a picture of James Dean wearing those same jeans, all of a sudden it costs $2,500. Why is that? Because we love stories.
Will you ever open the platform to a wider audience of collectors, not just your personal list of curators?
I can’t go into the second phase with you right now, and for the first year, I can’t do what you talked about – hint, hint. But you will be able to come to the site and be able to get derivatives. So you may not be able to afford the necklace, but you may be able to afford the t-shirt or hoodie with the picture of the item you are thinking of. We made a little something out of it for everyone in terms of democracy.