Interview with Mallams' Jewellery Specialist

Joining Mallams in 2015, Jewellery Specialist Louise Dennis FGA DGA reveals how to spot valuable items, shares a record-breaking valuation, and explains just why she loves her job in this interview with SoGlos.

Currently Mallams’ Jewellery Specialist, Louise Dennis FGA DGA boasts a wealth of experience in the industry, with her role involving everything from researching and cataloguing to valuations.

Offering an insight into Mallams and what it has to offer, Louise talks all-things jewellery with SoGlos – including a record-breaking necklace that sold for a whopping £31,000!

What does your role at Mallams Auctioneers involve?

My role is varied and no two days are the same, which keeps things interesting. I spend time meeting clients for valuations, cataloguing and photographing jewellery and watches that are consigned for sale, and researching pieces of a historical or design importance.

Each year we hold three specialist jewellery sales and two design sales incorporating jewellery at the Oxford saleroom, and so there is always an auction deadline that I am working towards. I also make time to visit jewellery exhibitions, lectures and other auctions, to keep my knowledge up to date.

What inspired you to specialise in jewellery valuations?

I have been fascinated by jewellery and gemstones from a young age, having grown up with stories passed down from my great grandfather, who was a jeweller and watch maker in the Jewellery Quarter.

I used to spend hours peering at the colourful and sparkling jewels on display in jewellers’ windows, thinking how glamorous they were – much to the annoyance of my parents, no doubt! A spell of work experience for an auction house in my late teens confirmed that this would be my dream job, and so I set about trying to make it happen.

Can you tell us about your background in the valuation industry?

After university I joined a firm of independent jewellers that specialised in the commission of handmade jewellery and the sale of antique pieces. During my time there I studied at the School of Jewellery in Birmingham, gaining my gemmology diploma and diamond grading qualifications, and in 2010 I accepted a position as jewellery and silver specialist at Bonhams in Knowle.

A year later I relocated to their busy jewellery department in Oxford, valuing and cataloguing items for monthly jewellery sales and sourcing higher value pieces for London sales. In 2015 I joined Mallams as head of jewellery.

How can Mallams help people who might have valuable jewellery?

We are able to provide confidential and complimentary valuations of items with a view to selling them at auction, which can be especially useful for clients with jewellery that they no longer wear, or inherited pieces that they don’t wish to keep.

We can research pieces of specific interest and arrange laboratory testing of gemstones with a potentially higher value, such as Columbian emeralds and natural pearls, to achieve the best outcome for our clients at auction.

What signs indicate that a person may have a piece of value?

Provenance is very important for jewellery that may be a good or rare example of its type, and so items that have been inherited or acquired from an important family or estate can be of higher value.

The current market for period and antique jewellery in good condition is especially strong, and iconic pieces by celebrated jewellery houses, such as Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels are particularly desirable at auction.

What steps can someone take to getting their jewellery valued with Mallams?

Appointments can be made with me throughout our network of offices in Cheltenham, Oxford, Burford and Abingdon, or in the comfort of a client’s home. I am also able to provide advice by email or phone, for those who are keen to find out more about selling at auction and the valuation process.

Are there any items you’ve valued that were of specific interest?

A few months after I joined Mallams a local lady came to see me with a gold and enamel pendant necklace that she had inherited, in a fitted case by Liberty & Co. Her forebear had been a Viscountess and was one of the first female MPs to be elected in the 1920s.

With research we were able to trace the design to Archibald Knox, incorporating the sinuous Celtic-inspired motifs that are typical of his work from c. 1900-1904. I was overjoyed to see the necklace sell to a collector for £31,000 at our Oxford saleroom in December 2015, setting a world record for a piece of Knox-designed jewellery sold at auction.

Why do you think it’s important to keep a check of jewellery items and their value?

Some items may appear to be of low value but can in fact by highly collectible or rare, and so I would suggest that anybody with jewellery or a collection of items should seek a professional valuation before dismissing it. It is also important to keep up to date with market trends and fashions, as this has a direct impact on saleable value and when might be the best time to sell a piece.

And finally, what’s your favourite thing about your job?

I enjoy the excitement of not knowing what I will see next, whether it is an Arts and Crafts jewel plucked from a bundle of costume items, a 19th-century diamond tiara that requires a probate valuation, or a beautiful Art Deco engagement ring that we will have potential buyers queuing up for.

I very much enjoy hearing the history of these pieces from our clients, and it is always a pleasure to deliver the good news when a piece is particularly valuable.

For more information call (01242) 235712 or visit directly.

© SoGlos
Wednesday 20 June 2018

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