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Having only been working in the auction industry for the past two years, the one thing I have learnt is that there is never a dull day and there is always something different coming in over the doors or via valuation days, and while I haven’t had as much time as some of my more experienced colleagues who have unearthed some truly amazing finds, I already have one or two stories of my own.
One of the most surprising finds came to us via a phone call on the last day of consigning for our first Select Jewellery & Watches auction. A client called to say that they had a coral necklace they were looking to sell. All they told me was that it was a lovely thing and they thought it had some age to it; I explained that to be included in the sale I would need the piece by the end of that day. A couple of hours later, expecting a single strand of coral beads at £150 I was handed a fitted case the size of a dinner plate, definitely not what I had been expecting! Upon opening I found stunning 19th century carved coral and gold mounted necklace and matching earrings. Each coral drop was beautifully carved as a Bacchanalian mask or acorn; a fantastic piece of antique jewellery that well exceeded its estimate to eventually sell for £13,750 (premium inclusive).
From one extreme to another, in 2013 we sold the Terry Brodie-Smith Collection of contemporary jewellery and silver. Terry had been a well-known and prolific Edinburgh collector and an avid patron of up and coming art students from the Edinburgh and Glasgow art colleges. When I found out we were going to be selling items from his collection I was certainly excited to see what was there; what I was presented with was about twenty-five very large boxes to sort through. While it was a lot of work, and a lot of the pieces weren’t for us, I genuinely never knew what I was going to find in each box; and we unearthed some fantastic pieces of contemporary silver by silversmiths such as Adrian Hope, Roger Millar and Hiroshi Suzuki; as well as a selection of jewellery by makers such as Jenny Deans, Malcolm Appleby, Wendy Ramshaw and Butler & Wilson; made from everything including paste to paper and all things in between, it was a collection which showcased everything from the sublime to the ridiculous and proved to be a great success, with a 100% selling rate.
As always, I never know what tomorrow is going to bring over the door.
Ruth Davis is a specialist and department administrator for the Jewellery & Watches and Silver & Objects of Vertu departments. She specialises in gemstones and precious metals, in styles ranging from the Victorian period to the work of designers such as Bulgari and Cartier.
After studying History of Art & English Literature at the University of Edinburgh, Ruth came to work at Lyon & Turnbull initially part-time before joining the Jewellery & Silver Department full time almost two years ago. Now a specialist, Ruth has completed her FGA in gemmology with the Gemmological Association of Great Britain. She currently looks after the day to day running of the department, as well as cataloguing and valuing items for sale.