- For the world’s wealthiest people, Christmas can look a little different.
- The most sought-after gifts for the billionaire set can cost five figures — or more.
- Here’s what the ultrarich have on their wishlists this year.
Money, a sweater, perfume, and a smartphone are among the most desired gifts in the US this Christmas, a recent Statista survey found. But unless that check under the tree is for $10,000 — the amount Warren Buffett used to give each member of his family — most of those won’t cut it when it comes to the gifts of the ultrarich.
“The most amazing thing about billionaires is that there tends to be no budget,” said Nicole Pollard Bayme, the founder of luxury styling firm Lalaluxe, which provides bespoke gift sourcing for clients. That “allows us to have unlimited imagination,” she added. For these shopping services, she charges a starting price of $600 an hour, plus a percentage of the cost of the items purchased.
Alongside Pollard Bayme, Business Insider also spoke to Winston Chesterfield, the founder of Barton, a consulting firm focused on luxury and the wealthy, and Elisabeth Brown, a client manager at travel and lifestyle concierge company Knightsbridge Circle.
They gave us their insights about what the richest people give and get for the holidays. The answers varied from the eye-popping — a $5 million villa — to the ear-pleasing — a Steinway in a stocking (well, not literally).
Here’s a look at the presents that the .001% are giving and receiving this year — and just remember, it’s probably best not to compare those socks you got from your mother-in-law with any of the items on this list.
Pianos: Multiple wealth experts said there’s been a newfound interest in giving pianos, and not just your average upright or electric keyboard.
Grand pianos — which can run to tens of thousands of dollars, if not more, Brown said — are a great gift for someone who actually plays, of course, but are also appreciated as a part of one’s decor.
“Our members appreciate the finer things in life, including good craftsmanship,” Brown said, “and a piano oftentimes can be a focal point of a room.”
Chesterfield added that a piano doubles as a party trick, with the wealthy hiring professionals to tickle the ivories while hosting events.
Birkins: The Hermès Birkin is perhaps the most exclusive and expensive type of handbag in the world. With a starting price of $9,000, it’s not surprising it’s a popular gift for those who also have exclusive and expensive taste.
One of Chesterfield’s contacts gives a new Hermès bag to his wife each year, and the color of the purse sets the tone for the rest of her gifts. A red bag, for example, will be surrounded by red items from other luxury retailers.
One of Pollard Bayme’s clients requested a rare Himalayan Birkin with diamond hardware for a particularly special gift. Crafted from dyed crocodile skin, the bag cost $750,000 and required security to deliver it to the client.
“For the person that has everything, why not have diamonds on your handbag too?” Pollard Bayme said. Why not, indeed.
A trip to space: “The ultimate flex for the billionaire class” is two tickets to space, Pollard Bayme said.
Following in the footsteps of billionaires like Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson, two of her clients are heading into orbit for the holiday. The gift also includes training with NASA astronauts.
While Pollard Bayme did not disclose how much her clients were paying for the unusual vacation, a seat on Branson’s Virgin Galactic flight can go for $450,000 each, while one on Bezos’ Blue Origin rockets can cost millions. At that price, BI hopes the champagne up there is very well-chilled.
A wellness retreat — and the very best gear to go with it: Though the other gifts on this list prove that excessive opulence isn’t dead, Chesterfield said many of his contacts are choosing to give experiences, and forgoing presents like jewelry and cars.
“People seem to be a bit exhausted with what you’d call hard luxury,” he said. Instead, they’re giving travel experiences, particularly wellness retreats like a bike trip through Mallorca or a week at Austria’s Vivamayr spa.
To be sure, even though these gifts are not emblazoned with designer names or encrusted with gems, they’re not cheap. The bike tour starts at $5,999, for example, while a stay at Vivamayr costs a minimum of $2,500.
And to really round out the gift, a stocking stuffer of the best of the best gear can’t hurt, like a $3,450 Loro Piana windbreaker or $2,000 Moncler ski jacket.
Eats, drinks — and then some: “People are just becoming so passionate about food,” Chesterfield said. “You end up having enough bags, enough jewelry, enough of this stuff, and it doesn’t go away. But food is always needed.”
And while aged balsamic vinegar from Italy — a bottle can cost hundreds of dollars — can be a nice stocking stuffer, those who want to go the extra mile can add an experience: A cooking lesson and dinner in one’s home from a Michelin-starred chef, for example, or a ten-course meal at an impossible-to-get-into restaurant.
Brown also suggested that food or wine events can be the focal point of an entire trip. Tickets to the Golden Vines, the Oscars of wine (the top tier cost about $13,000 a head this year) as well as a week in the hosting country are a popular gift for oenophiles, she said.
A vineyard in Tuscany: And for those with a higher budget to spend on the wine lover in your life, a vineyard in Tuscany may be the ultimate gift.
Knightsbridge recently helped secure one for a client as a gift for their partner. Complete with a villa that Napoleon slept in and honey and olive oil production facilities, it cost about $5 million. And on Christmas Day, they can wash down their meal with their very own wine. Santé.