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Here’s what the ultra-rich spent money on in 2023 (and how to market to them)

By Joanna Lewis, Head of content



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April 4, 2024 | 8 min read

Superyachts, colored diamonds and the world's rarest whiskys: the super-rich found all kinds of ways to spend their money in 2023. Joanna Lewis of Relevance takes a close look at the world of luxury investments.

A 1962 Ferrari 330 LM/250 GTO sold at auction for US$51.7 million.

A 1962 Ferrari 330 LM/250 GTO sold at auction for $51.7 million. / Paulwalker via

Wealth creation returned in 2024, with Ultra-High-Net-Worth-Individuals (UHNWIs) turning to a fascinating portfolio of luxury investments. Here's how they spent their money.

According to the 2024 Knight Frank Wealth Report, which takes a deep dive into the world’s UHNW population, a surge in financial market returns resulted in a shift in allocations of luxury assets, with many luxury investments facing downward pressures.

So, what are UHNWIs investing in, and how are those luxury investments performing?

Knight Frank’s Luxury Investment Index 2024

Knight Frank’s Luxury Investment Index (KFLII), which tracks a weighted basket of 10 luxury collectibles, fell by 1% overall in 2023 as several luxury investments showed lackluster results. Of note, this was only the second time that the KFLII recorded a negative trend in luxury investments since it was first published in 2013, demonstrating the continued positive performance of investing in ultra-luxury goods.

This was despite a growing number of UHNWIs, up 4% at the end of the year 2023 compared to a year earlier, with an incredible 70 new UHNWIs created daily.

What UHNW luxury investments were down in 2023?

According to the KFLII, the following luxury collectibles dipped in 2023: rare whisky bottles were down 9%, cars were down 6%, handbags were down 4%, furniture was down 2%, and wine was down 1%.

What UHNW luxury investments were up in 2023?

Despite an overall dip in the KFLII, there were several positive luxury investment gains in 2023. Art was up 11%, jewelry was up 8%, watches were up 5%, coins were up 4%, and color diamonds were up 2%.

According to the International Monetary Fund, global inflation stood at 6.9% in 2023, meaning that only art and jewelry luxury collectibles provided inflation-busting returns.

What were the most expensive UHNW luxury investment sales in 2023?

Despite a slight downward trajectory in the KFLII, there were record-breaking sales for luxury goods, showcasing the appetite the world’s UHNWIs have for luxury investments.

According to the report, the most expensive UHNW luxury investments, as reported by major auction houses Sotheby’s, Christie’s, and GreatCollections, were: a 1962 Ferrari 330 LM/250 GTO, sold for $51.7 million; a Patek Philippe Gold Two-Crown World Time wristwatch, sold for $8.5 million; the Macallan Adam 1926 whisky, sold for $2.7 million; and a 1795 US$10 Capped Bust Gold Eagle 9 Leaves coin, sold for $2.7 million.

There was also the Eternal Pink 10.57 carat fancy vivid purplish-pink diamond, sold for $34.8 million; a Himalaya Niloticus Crocodile Diamond Birkin 25 with 18K white-gold and diamond hardware, sold for $360,000; Femme a la Montre by Picasso, sold for $139.4 million; the Bleu Royal ring featuring a 17.61 Carat Fancy vivid blue diamond, sold $43.8 million; and five magnums of Romanee-Conti 1999, sold for $280,000.

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Superyacht sales break records in 2023

A luxury superyacht is the ultimate lifestyle purchase for UHNWIs. Due to Relevance’s work with the world’s leading yacht brokerages, our team has seen first-hand the booming yacht sales market, with many of our yacht industry clients reporting record sales numbers.

In 2023, the yacht industry recorded the world’s largest brokerage deal in history, with the sale of the Lurssen superyacht AHPO for a reported 330 million Euros. The sale was managed by Moran Yacht & Ship, a Relevance client, with Relevance’s PR team managing the 115-meter yacht’s publicity.

Why do UHWNIs collect luxury investments?

The Knight Frank Wealth Report identifies several reasons why UHNWIs invest in items of passion, namely the joy of ownership, investment, status among peers, belonging to a community, and intellectual interest.

When marketing to UHNWIs it’s vital to understand the reasons why this extremely wealthy cohort chooses to make a luxury purchase. Relevance is a leading luxury marketing agency that has been tracking the consumer and lifestyle habits of UHNWIs for over a decade. Digital marketing to UHNWIs requires a highly tailored approach that appeals to the unique behaviors of this ultra-exclusive cohort.

Understanding the emotional drivers that make UHNWIs invest in certain luxury goods can help ensure highly targeted campaigns that resonate with this wealthy audience. We support clients with this through our highly effective audience profiling service.

According to Knight Frank’s 2024 Attitude Survey, 48% of global UHNWIs consider art a popular acquisition – and its strength as an alternative portfolio investment no doubt helped it showcase superb gains in 2023 – the only index constituent to hit double-digit growth.

Other popular investments the survey reported included watches (viewed favorably by 42% of UHNWIs), classic cars (viewed favorably by 38% of UHNWIs), and fine wines (viewed favorably by 35% of UHNWIs).

Other UHNW investments breaking records

While the Knight Frank Luxury Investment Index tracks 10 key luxury investments, UHNWIs are increasingly investing in a diverse portfolio of rare and highly sought-after goods.

Other record-breaking luxury investment sales in 2023 included: Michael Jordan’s 1998 NBA finals game 2 Air Jordan 13s, which sold for $2.2 million. Tipu Sultan’s fabled 18th-century gold koftgari-hilted steel bedchamber sword, sold for £14 million (approximately $17.6 million). A 1,000-year-old Hebrew bible considered the most valuable manuscript ever sold, sold for $38.1 million. And the Lord of the Rings “One Ring” card, sold for a reported $2 million.

What share of wealth do UHNWIs invest in luxury assets?

Luxury assets make up a not-so-insignificant chunk of UHNWI’s overall wealth. According to the Knight Frank Wealth Report, luxury investments make up 20% of UHNWIs portfolios across the globe.

Breaking down the data on a more granular level, Middle East and Latin American UHNWIs show the greatest passion for luxury investments, accounting for 23% of their asset portfolios, followed by Asian UHNWIs with an allocation of 21%, and North American UHNWIs with 20%. European UHNWIs are slightly more reserved, with 18% of their asset portfolio allocated to luxury investments, followed by African UHNWIs at 17% of their investment portfolio.

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