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PERIOD and designer jewellery has outperformed the housing market over the past decade, according to new figures.

Research reveals the most rare and sought-after pieces of vintage jewellery have soared in value by over 80 per cent during the past ten years.

By contrast, average house prices in England have risen in value by just 47 per cent over the same period of time, according to ONS figures.

Art Deco (1920s and 1930s) and Belle Epoque jewellery (1890 to 1915) has soared by a remarkable 88 per cent since 2006.  Antique jewellery has risen by 68 per cent and jewellery from the post war era (1945-1975) has risen by 70 per cent during the same period.

But despite such rises, Britons are sitting on millions of pounds worth of designer jewellery because they do not know exactly what it is worth, according to one of the UK’s leading auction houses.

Bonhams says many people do not realise how valuable their jewellery is because the hallmarks, signatures or initials of its creators are unnoticed or unrecognised.

The auction house has a number of examples to illustrate its campaign.

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For example, in one case, an elderly family friend gave a little girl a brooch for her dressing up box, not realising it was from a famous design house.  Another lady thought she had a worthless piece of costume jewellery which has been sitting in her jewellery box for years but this turned out to be an extremely rare CHANEL necklace made by Coco Chanel herself.

Jean Ghika, Bonhams Head of Jewellery for UK and Europe, said: “People tend to think designer pieces of jewellery are very obviously branded by their creators, but that’s not always the case. The identifying marks of many leading designers can be incredibly subtle.”

Hallmarks, signatures, initials, even a name or a code on the back of a jewel can signify that a piece of jewellery has come from a highly sought-after house.

These could include names like Cartier or Van Cleef & Arpels and these ‘signatures’ can make a huge difference to the eventual selling price if a customer goes down that route.

Launching its Jewellery January: Makers and Eras campaign to encourage people to find out the up-to-date market value of the jewellery they own, the auction house has revealed some fascinating examples illustrating where valuable pieces had gone unrecognised until it was brought into Bonhams.

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These included:

  • A striking CHANEL Twist Necklace designed by Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel. This was brought at a Bonhams’ valuation day by a female customer from Yorkshire who thought the chunky gold “twist” necklace studded with large cabochon citrines was worthless costume jewellery.  Experts spotted the discreet engraved signature “CHANEL” on the underside of one of the links and confirmed it as a very rare piece of mid-20th century jewellery by Mademoiselle herself. The necklace had a pre-sale estimate of £4,000–6,000 but became the subject of fierce bidding and eventually sold for £68,500 in April 2015.
  • An unusual Verdura Camel Brooch gifted to a little girl by an elderly friend of the family and kept in her dressing up box. This gold, pearl and emerald camel brooch was made by Fulco Santostefano della Cerda, Duke of Verdura, in 1952, and is based upon a pet camel called “Moffo” that Verdura owned as a boy. Having been identified as such by Bonhams it sold to a collector for £9,600 against its pre-sale estimate of£2,000–3,000.
  • A refined Belle Époque pearl, ruby and diamond necklace attributed to Cartier circa 1910 that came to Bonhams for valuation by a gentleman who believed it could be a special piece. Incredibly, it did not appear to have been signed by a designer. After an exhaustive search using a jeweller’s loupe and then a microscope, a Bonhams’ jewellery expert found a French maker’s mark on an inconspicuous part of one of the tiny platinum links. The mark was for French workshop Andrey, specialists in early platinum and gem-set jewels, who manufactured exclusively for Cartier.  The necklace had a pre-sale estimate of £10,000–15,000 but eventually went under the hammer at Bonhams for £35,000 in September 2015.
  • And, an impressive Sapphire ring by Boucheron brought in by a couple who had not realised the band was engraved with a beautifully elaborate “Boucheron” signature. Boucheron is a luxury French jeweller known for only using the finest quality stones and one of the most respected gemmological laboratories in the world confirmed that not only was it an untreated gem but also that it came from Burma, the source for some of the finest sapphires in the world.  The ring sold for £422,500 against its pre-sale estimate of £100,000–150,000 inDecember 2013.

Bonhams’ Jewellery JanuaryMakers and Era campaign is set to highlight the significance of jewellery from famous makers and eras as they continue to achieve record prices at auction.

Emily Barber, Department Director of Bonhams London, adds: “To find an original, intact, surviving jewel from a particular period in history, with the added bonus that it was made by a master jeweller, makes it an incredibly rare and valuable work of art.  Its value is not just in the gems but also in the fine workmanship and innovative design.

Experts at Bonhams are now expecting the strong market for key jewellery makers and eras to be reflected during auctions in its London Knightsbridge salesroom in January and March and also at its Fine Jewellery sale at New Bond Street in April 2017.

Jean Ghika said: “Jewellery can often be left sitting in a jewellery box or in a safety deposit box with the owners unsure what to do with it so it remains untouched for years therefore we are actively encouraging customers to bring in pieces for a free and confidential valuation.

Bonhams is reporting that more people are seeking to sell significant pieces of jewellery they own.  This used to be due to the 3Ds – death, divorce and debt – but now this is also due to the fact:

  • Jewellery is not worn due to changing tastes and styles. Inherited pieces, sometimes in an older style, are not always considered fashionable or practical;
  • Owners are re-assessing assets and want to realise the money so it can be used for other purposes;
  • Inheritance planning: a significant and valuable piece cannot be easily shared equally between children;
  • Some pieces can be costly to retain given increasingly high insurance premiums – especially if they are unworn.

To help people work out if they have a piece of value, Bonhams will be hosting free valuations with a view to sale in its UK offices in January and into February.

In London, the auction house will be hosting a weekly walk-in session every Thursday for a month starting January 16th 2017 and regional valuations will be taking place across Bonhams’ offices in the UK during January and February (click HERE for more information).

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Jean Ghika added: “Jewellery pieces from makers including Van Cleef & Arpels, Bulgari, Cartier and Tiffany are always in demand and performing very well at our auction globally. Buyers are interested in examples of signed pieces from these great jewellery houses.

They are also interested in jewellery from historic periods such as the 1920s and 1930s a period that’s renowned for creating striking pieces of jewellery which have been beautifully made.

Interestingly, we are also seeing a surge in prices in eye-catching jewellery from the 1960s and 1970s. These are achieving strong prices at auction in the UK and across the Bonhams’ global network.

Bonhams has set up a dedicated webpage for people to find out more information and to arrange to speak to one if its jewellery specialists at

People who click on this link will have the option to upload a picture of their jewellery from their mobile phone, tablet or computer to help Bonhams’ experts ahead of the valuation meeting.

The auction house will be supporting its Jewellery January: Makers and Eras with an advertising, PR and social media campaign.

For those who want to consign, Bonhams will be hosting dedicated auctions in its Knightsbridge salesroom on 25th January, 15th March and 12th April where jewellery will go under the hammer.  There will be a further Fine Jewellery sale at Bonhams New Bond Street salesroom on April 27th .

To contact your local Bonhams’ jewellery specialist, please click here:


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