A lifelong passion for antiques and decorative arts lured me to a career working amongst beautiful objects. The process of searching out an exciting antique or jewel, researching it, and then valuing it is always intriguing; you simply never know what your next house call or valuation appointment will yield. Being able to then catalogue the piece yourself, promote it, and sell it on the rostrum, is always a thrill for an auctioneer.
Over the years, I have sold many exciting pieces for clients. For me, half the pleasure comes from viewing the excitement etched on the faces of contented vendors and excited buyers. A recent example involved a beautiful cornflower blue sapphire and diamond ring which sold for £12,500. Finding the ring, organising the certificate, and proving my instincts right that the stone had had no heat treatment, was a wonderful feeling and ensured a superb result for our client.
Another recent treasure was a Hermes 18ct gold anchor chain necklace, purchased some years ago by our vendor, but unworn in a box and believed to be ‘unfashionable’. We valued the necklace at a competitive auction estimate of £3000 - £5000, then marketed the item via multiple channels and contacted clients who collect named pieces – it finally sold for £8500, and the owner couldn’t have been more delighted – the necklace was now very much back in fashion!
My two primary interests lie with the manufacturing techniques of antique jewellery, and gemmology. The techniques used over centuries have changed and honed, in terms of settings, styles, and the mining, production, and cutting of gemstones. I also find the inclusions in gemstones fascinating; they are like fingerprints, and under a loupe or a microscope no two are the same. Whilst diamonds and coloured gemstones are valued for their clarity, inclusions can yield valuable information about the ages and origin of gemstones, and the detective work can be very satisfying and intriguing.
Auctioneering is one of the most fun aspects of the job; the rapport between the auctioneer and the bidder is always exciting, with the added thrill that the ‘room’ is not restricted by four walls… It is now a ‘virtual room’ consisting many thousands of internet bidders from across the world. It is always very fulfilling to drop the gavel and sell an item, completing the process - you have overseen it from enquiry, to valuation, then research and cataloguing, on to marketing and promotion, through to the eventual sale.
If money were no object, my dream would be to own the violet sapphire necklace by Louis Comfort Tiffany, which is currently owned by the Met Museum in New York. It is set with a natural, untreated, oval-cut violet sapphire, of Sri Lankan origin, and set in a marvellous naturalistic setting of entwined vines, typical of early Tiffany design; it dates from around 1910, and the sapphire has the most beautiful fire. It represents a pinnacle of jewellery design, the traditions of the Arts and Crafts movement manifested in the creation of a great many wonderful pieces of jewellery, often with imagery drawn from nature.
I am often asked about what sort of jewellery is ‘selling well’ at the moment… Clients, friends and family all want to know what they should be buying, what they should be investing in, and what they should be parting with. My answer is similar to my colleagues within the Fine Art & Antiques arm of Dawsons, in that one should always buy ‘what you truly like’. After all, jewellery is meant to be worn; too often we are offered items for sale because their owners no longer wear them or have never worn them. Designer names are always popular, but you should aim to buy a piece because you warm to it aesthetically; if you buy it only for the name, it may end up sitting in a drawer!
Antique jewellery, particularly Georgian and Victorian, is seeing an increase in popularity, so now is the time to buy – as we often say, they aren’t making any more of them! As inherited pieces surface more and more at auction, what one person considers to be old-fashioned is someone else’s dream jewel, and with so many different styles available at auction, you’re bound to find something that suits you. It is a pleasure to see clients experimenting with combinations of antique, vintage, and modern jewellery worn together.
When it comes to selling jewellery at auction, there are plenty of reasons to sell now… not least, that the market has never been more buoyant. You may have inherited an item you would never wear or bought something long ago, but your taste has changed. From unwanted gifts to forgotten heirlooms, it makes sense to sell these items whilst the market is strong, and let your unworn items find new homes with people who will love them and wear them.
Rachel Hutchinson Cert GA MA
Request a complimentary auction estimate from our team of specialists, or contact us to book an appointment. If your item is suitable for auction, we will provide you with a valuation and further details of how to sell with us.