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Hollywood has had HIV and Darfur, fashion has breast cancer, and music now once again has Live Aid, but the art world – as moneyed as any of them – has never had a charity cause to call its own.

Enter Project Perpetual, who on 9 November auctioned off a specially commissioned sculpture by pop artist Jeff Koons for $4m, benefitting the United Nations Foundation. The piece, based on Picasso’s "La Soupe" and titled "Gazing Ball (Charity)," stands six feet tall and is slung with donated Hermès handbags. The animated Phillips auctioneer Simon de Pury pointed out that Koons had made three of each of the 17 pieces in his "Gazing Ball" series – but that this one was in a unique single edition.

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Archaeologists unearthing a huge ancient burial site at Amphipolis in northern Greece have uncovered a large floor mosaic. The mosaic - 3m (10ft) wide and 4.5m (15ft) long - depicts a man with a laurel wreath driving a chariot drawn by horses and led by the god Hermes.

The burial site is said to be the largest ever found in Greece. It dates from the late 4th Century BC, spurring speculation that it is linked to Alexander the Great of Macedon.

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The art of French lacquer developed in the late 17th century in response to the rising popularity of Japanese and Chinese lacquerware and quickly led to concentration of gilder-varnisher workshops in the Saint-Antoine quarter in Paris where the cabinetmakers and joiners were already established. The French even developed their own technique, Vernis Martin — as recently retraced in an exhibition at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris — that enabled the craftsmen to generate blues, greens, and yellows, in addition to Asian reds and blacks. Vernis Martin was soon used to cover all kinds of materials and decorative objects, from woodwork paneling to musical instruments and even horse-drawn carriages.

While lacquering is most traditionally associated with wood and bamboo, it can also be applied on metal, and it is this technique that the skilled craftsmen and women at Hermès have applied in miniature to a new limited edition collection of three new watches under the Arceau Cheval d’Orient name.

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Locked behind glass, illuminated like a jewel, lies an Hermès Birkin — totem of wealth, bestower of status, and one seriously expensive handbag.

This particular specimen is a coveted Hermès White Himalayan Birkin, dyed in brown and beige crocodile. Gently, if ever, used, it is offered at $115,000.

Wait — used?

That word is never spoken, not here inside the hushed Midtown Manhattan showroom of Heritage Auctions. The preferred term is “rare” or “vintage” — in this case, applied to a handbag made all the way back in 2013.

No one, it is said, knows more about the buying and selling of pre-owned Hermès bags than Matthew Rubinger, Heritage’s Birkin whisperer. But now Mr. Rubinger, 26, has left for another more famous auction house — Christie’s International — and the battle of the Birkins has begun.

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