Jewellery, Silver, Watches and Coins Auction Highlights

Dec 19, 2021

The last jewellery, silver, watches and coins auction at Wessex Auction Rooms was brimming with what can only be described as truly beautiful items. The highlight was undoubtedly a Georgian imperial topaz pendant necklace. Dating to the 18th century, the necklace was formed of twenty-five graduated oval pinkish-orange topaz with a detachable pendant. It wasn’t until the 19th century with the advances in technology and the discovery of the gemstone mines that gemstone jewellery became more accessible. Prior to this, gemstones were rare and valuable commodities. As fashions changed and styles became out-dated jewellery reflected these changing styles and was remodelled into something new; as such there is a scarcity of jewellery from the 18th century and earlier. Imperial topaz is considered the most desirable and valuable of all the colours of topaz. To have a rough stone sufficiently large to fashion into twenty-five faceted stones, or to be able to match the hue of smaller pieces to create a necklace of such a size is not only exceptionally rare, but would also have taken great skill, affordable only to the wealthy elite of society. This superb museum-quality example of Georgian jewellery sold at Wessex Auction Rooms under the experienced hand of Izzie Balmer for £10,000.

“I really was spoilt for choice with fine jewellery” comments Izzie, FGA DGA, Auctioneer and Head Valuer at Wessex Auction Rooms. “I’m struggling to pick just 10 favourite pieces, let alone narrowing it down to a handful. The Georgian topaz necklace is certainly up there. Another gorgeous item was the late 19th century Art Nouveau diamond, pink tourmaline and seed pearl pendant. Despite being unsigned it was of outstanding quality and most probably French”. The sinuous open-work marquise-shaped design was formed of stylised fan-shaped leaves amongst which were nestled diamond and pink tourmaline accents, with a border of diamonds, from which was suspended a baroque pearl. Art Nouveau jewellery is very popular, particularly at auction. The designs are influenced by nature, with the more unusual larger pieces commanding the most attention. “Our pendant sold for £3,800, exceeding expectations” explains Izzie. “It’s a really strong result, especially for an unsigned example, but it proves that quality always sells well and the market is thirst for quality pieces”.

An impressive Victorian diamond sunburst brooch saw a battle between the room and the internet, selling for £5,000. The thirteen-rayed brooch was fully set with 145 diamonds, the principal diamond weighing 0.65 carat, the total diamond weight over 7.0 carats. Originally the brooch would have been part of a larger set of jewellery and most likely it would have formed the centre of a tiara, converting to a brooch via detachable fittings. “I love the idea of being able to turn your jewellery into a necklace, or a bracelet or a brooch as the mood takes your fancy” explains Izzie. “Victorian jewellery typically had various functions, with necklaces converting to bracelets, brooches to pendants, brooches to tiara centrepieces and so on. The same suite of jewellery could be used for both daywear and evening wear by making it more or less intricate as required.”

Usually it’s the gents wristwatches that are the more popular at auction, but this time around it was a ladies’ Franck Muller that was crowned as the highest selling watch on the day. The watch, known as the “sunset” watch was in 18ct yellow gold, the case and strap set with numerous diamonds. The curved rectangular silvered dial displayed black Arabic numerals and poker hands. It caught the hearts of bidders on the internet, but it was the commission bidder who secured the watch for £3,600.

We’ve all heard about the popularity of Chinese ceramics with auction house records being made by six and seven figure sums, but we hear less about the demand for Chinese coins. A Chinese Qing coin sold at Wessex Auction Rooms for £3,000. The Qing dynasty was established in 1636 and ruled over China until 1912 when it was overthrown by the Xinhai Revolution. Prior to 1900, all coins from this dynasty were cast and struck with a square hole to the centre and formed of the alloys silver and copper. Due to the devaluation of silver in the 19th century and a shortage of copper, coins were made without the square hold and were machine-struck rather than cast. This process was quicker, cheaper and consistent compared to the alloys of cast Chinese coinage. China began to transition from a bimetallic system to a monometallic system. The coin at Wessex Auctions was from the bimetallic era, with a square hole to the centre.

Victorian silverwork at its finest was on offer for sale at Wessex Auction Rooms with a silver gilt rowing club and regatta chalice surpassing expectations. The unusual stepped tapered bowl was decorated with repoussé tear-drop shaped panels with tulip and stylised scroll decoration. Engravings and personalisation usually detract from the value, but this was not the case for this chalice, despite two of the panels having presentation inscriptions. The chalice was hallmarked for Daniel & Charles Houle, London 1860 and after an internet battle sold for £1,300.

Wessex Auction Rooms are consigning for their next specialist jewellery, silver, watches and coins auction in March. For more information or to consign items call 01249 720888 or email izzie@wessexauctionrooms.co.uk