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Resilient footfall at Bentley & Skinner despite credit crunch
By George Appleshaw

LONDON, August 14, 2008 - Bentley & Skinner is a long-time resident of London’s premier jewellery quarter on Bond Street, and is renowned for its antique jewels, including some spectacular Victorian, Art Nouveau and Art Deco pieces.

 

During a busy mid-August afternoon, George Appleshaw asks Bentley & Skinner’s senior sales representative Stanley Lester about the current market for fine antique jewels.

Q. How is business in light of the tough global economic climate?

A. We have noticed that our footfall has been less because of the credit crunch. But regular customers who come in are spending a similar amount to before the credit crunch.

Q. What is the typical profile of your customers?

A. Our customer base is largely British, but we also get many visitors from abroad. We’re seeing some diplomats, including more people from the Middle East.

Q. How has demand been for your Faberge pieces?

A. It’s been fairly constant. We sold a fine original Faberge bell-push recently – turn of the 20th century, gold and enamel with semi-precious stones. It sold to a Russian buyer for £65,000 ($130,000). We also sold a beautiful green enamel and gold Faberge pencil to a Russian collector for £19,000 ($38,000.). The people who buy our Faberge pieces tend to be Russians.

Q. Of the various periods of jewellery that are available, which is the most popular – Art Deco, Art Nouveau or Victorian?

A. Art Deco is without doubt the most popular. It never really went out of vogue. Many Americans are looking for jewellery of the Art Deco period. Many customers are looking for Art Deco engagement rings. Victorian pieces are also extremely popular.

Among Art Deco items that we recently sold, there was a plaque bracelet from circa 1925-1930 – two inches wide, full diamond, mounted in platinum – for £80,000 ($160,000). We sold it to an American woman in her 50s.

We also sold a 1930s Art Deco ring, with a central cushion-cut diamond, surrounded by brilliant cuts, mounted in platinum. An English couple bought it as an engagement ring. It sold for £45,000 ($90,000).

Our Art Deco cufflinks do well. We have available a pair of Boucheron cufflinks dating from the 1930s in 18-carat white gold with blue sapphires for 3,250 pounds ($6,500), and a Lacloche tie-pin or lapel pin, in lapis lazuli and white diamonds for £8,750 ($17,500.).

Q. What is so special about Art Deco jewellery?

A. Art Deco was a wonderful period in jewellery – and in architecture and furniture. Many Art Deco jewels were made with precious stones – people tried to show off opulence – whereas Art Nouveau jewels tend to include semi-precious stones.

 

Q. How are sales of Art Nouveau jewels going?

A. You tend to find that women would buy Art Nouveau jewels for themselves. It is much more flowery and feminine than Art Deco. Men often would prefer to buy Art Deco jewels for women. An American couple recently bought an Art Nouveau flower spray brooch for £6,950 ($13,900.) The woman looked at the brooch in the window. When she came into the shop, her husband asked her if she wanted to think about it. She said she had made up her mind immediately. “I want it right now,” she said. And she got it. She looks like she would wear it all day and every day.

We have available for sale a Spanish brooch by Masriera Y Carrera, circa 1890, in yellow gold, enamel and opal depicting a lady swathed in cloth with the wings of a dragonfly in plique-a-jour enamel. It is a spectacular piece that you would want to show off. It is available for £36,000 ($72,000.)

Q. Do Art Deco pieces from Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels cross your threshold?

A. Yes, they do. And, of course, they are very rare. There is a lady from Cartier who comes and buys back Cartier pieces for the company’s museum. She has one of the best jobs you could imagine. She flies around the world buying Cartier jewels! Many Cartier pieces made today will be less collectable, because they are produced in volume.

Q. How are sales of silverware and silver jewels going?

A. We are not selling as much silver to young people. They don’t want it on show. They don’t want to clean it. We’re not buying as much as we could in silver these days.


Q. What is the most valuable item that you currently have available for sale?

A. It is a bespoke Victorian diamond bangle, set with nine old brilliant-cut diamonds of large size and excellent cut and clarity, including diamonds weighing over 4 carats. It has a mount in yellow gold, gross weight 32 grams, made circa 1870. The piece, which is un-named, was made in England, and was sold to us by an English family. It was probably worn by an aristocrat, possibly English royalty. The diamonds look superb in candlelight. This bangle is available for £295,000.