Auction houses are some of the best sources to buy and sell jewelry. Although I do admit to being a total novice when it comes to auctions, I do know the forerunners in the jewelry business, and Bonhams is one of them.
I admire the jewelry specialists who have an ever-exciting job of handling these precious pieces and Emily Marchick has graciously answered some questions about what she does exclusively for Gem Gossip readers! Hope you enjoy:
My interest in jewelry began through a fascination with my parent’s mineral and crystal collection. I wanted to know where each gem and crystal came from, and why they were different colors and held different properties. I also recall from my childhood, playing with and trying on various tidbits in my grandmother’s and mother’s jewelry boxes. It was this admiration that led me to naturally start collecting modern and vintage necklaces, rings, bracelets and anything with a sparkle.
After earning a BA in Studio Arts and Art History from The College of Santa Fe, now Santa Fe University of Art and Design, I instantly knew that I wanted to apply it to jewelry. I was dreaming of a job where I could combine my love of history with jewelry and working with people. Once I learned about the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) and it’s Graduate Gemologist Program (G.G.), I was sold. After completing my G.G., I went to work for one of the largest privately-held retail jewelers in the US, as a Diamond Associate and presenter. The position, although interesting, did not offer the historical and research components that I had been looking for since college. After a bit of research I found Bonhams & Butterfields, now Bonhams, in San Francisco. The auction house possessed many of the things that I had been searching for. In turn, I held many qualifications that Bonhams was looking for including strong gemological knowledge and grading skills, diamond carat counting, strong research skills and exemplarity client service.
Currently, I am the Junior Jewelry Specialist for Bonhams in Los Angeles. My daily responsibilities include jewelry appraising, gem grading, auction catalogue production, as well as contributing to jewelry, timepiece, handbags and our monthly Period Art & Design auctions across the US and abroad. My job also includes entering and receiving jewelry that is consigned for sale, providing auction estimates for the pieces, historical research, and assisting clients on the telephone, during the sale preview and phone bidding on the day of the auction.
Although my days can vary from week to week, the auction world is cyclical. Deadlines and busy periods come in waives according to the preview and auction calendar. I assist with sales in Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York as well as London and Hong Kong, so I have a variety of jewelry at my fingertips almost 365 days a year.
One of my favorite components of the auction process is meeting each client and hearing the story of their collection. The pieces of jewelry that they own reflect who they are and their life experiences without saying a word. Following the auction I get to see where the pieces wind up. It begins a new chapter of history for the pieces.
The great thing about the auction world is the diverse sale calendar. There is always something fun and interesting on the auction block. One sale that I am particularly looking forward to is the Fine Jewelry sale on April 15, 2013. We are still in the property gathering stage of the sale but the auction will feature approximately 400 lots of necklaces, bracelets, rings and brooches. Highlights from the April sale include a comprehensive collection of jewelry from a prominent private New York and Palm Beach estate. The collector was well traveled and possessed a keen eye for jewelry and a sophisticated pallet. You can tell by looking at several of the pieces that they were drawn to vibrantly colored pieces with a focus on beads and works from world renowned design houses. I can’t wait to assist with grading the pieces and producing the auction catalogue!
One of my favorite jewelry related stories comes from working with The Robert Maier Collection of Judith Leiber® Handbags in December 2011. It was the first big sale that I was offered the opportunity to direct. From its initial stages of consignment to auction day, the sale was a career and personal growth experience.
The Robert Maier Collection was more than an auction, it was a love story. The ever-doting husband, Bob Maier shares a tale of going above and beyond for the love of his life, his wife:
“It started innocently enough,” he began, “as many stories do, with the single purchase of a single item, produced by someone I had never heard of at the time: Judith Leiber®. My wife was completely taken with Leiber’s little “pillboxes,” so we thought we’d start a collection. Something a husband can always make his wife happy with at Christmas or Valentine’s Day? I’m all in!
The thing was, for many years, we had a hard time making ends meet. Through it all, my wife never complained. She just isn’t like that – so when she said she wanted one of those pillboxes, I knew it was something special for her. I used this chance to make her happy.
As my wife and I enter retirement, we now pass along these items to the other collectors out there that love these shiny little bags. Don’t worry; my wife is keeping a selection of her favorites, but the rest of her amazing collection we offer to you. Give them a good home, show them off, and most of all, have fun!”
The Robert Maier Collection of Judith Leiber® Handbags was the first auction at Bonhams in the US dedicated to the highly collectible handbags and was 100% sold. It was an amazing opportunity to get to know Mr. Maier and his wife and offer their collection at auction.
My favorite piece of jewelry that I own is my engagement ring. The one thing that I really wanted was to have a rose and white gold metal combination for the setting, which blends well with my coloring. My husband and I designed it together with the help of Courtney Nealis Sconza after seeing her romantic, ethereal and vintage inspired style. We created swirls of intertwined bicolor gold around a cushion-cut diamond center that comes together in a light braid with bezel set diamond breaks. It was truly a labor of love and gives me joy when I wear it each day.