Posted on: March 18, 2020

French fancies take the biscuit at our Spring Auction!

Following the success of our first sale of the year, our March auction proved that there’s no signs slowing down in 2020, turning out some spectacular results and breaking their previous spring sale records. Of the sale, auctioneer Christina Trevanion said “There were fantastic results in every section of the auction on Saturday – it was very exciting! The team have worked hard to put together a great catalogue and do the best they can for our vendors, and that is reflected in this month’s results.”

Van Cleef & Arpels Minaudiere sold £7600

The top price of the day was taken by a stunning Art Deco ‘Minaudiere’ crafted by renowned French jewellers Van Cleef & Arpels, which sold for a staggering £7600. Christina oversaw a fierce bidding war between bidders in the room, on the phone and online, which culminated in the Minaudiere selling to a London based collector. “Van Cleef & Arpels is a name which always generates a buzz at auction, as one of the most important and defining jewellery houses of the 20th century” jewellery specialist Helena Waudby explains. “The minaudiere featured in this month’s auction was absolutely exquisite; it is quintessentially Art Deco in its style, which always attracts the eye of our bidders. Its vibrant red enamel is in virtually perfect condition, which is incredible for a piece of this age. But it’s the smaller, more refined details which set this piece apart, such as the top-quality diamonds set to the clasp, and the delightful gold mechanical pencil enclosed within it. It was a rare jewel, and a real treat to handle such a piece!”

Established by Alfred Van Cleef and his father-in-law Salomon Arpels, Van Cleef & Arpels began as a small boutique shop in Paris in the early 20th century. The brand quickly gained notoriety not only for their fine craftsmanship, but also for their inventive and whimsical designs. Their pieces were lauded by style icons such as Grace Kelly, Wallis Simpson and Elizabeth Taylor, which established them as one of the leading names in luxury jewellery by the mid-20th century.

George III mahogany chest of drawers sold £2600

Perhaps the thing that Van Cleef & Arpels are most noted for is their sense of innovation; their designs are well-crafted and highly stylized, but many have hidden functions and prove to be very practical. The Minaudiere is a fantastic example of just that; Salomon’s son, Charles Arpels, was said to be stunned when he saw a glamorous French socialite tossing her make-up and smalls into a battered tin box. Arpels saw a need for a more chic and stylish way for ladies to carry their personal effects, and thus the minaudiere – which can be described as a cross between a purse and a vanity case – was born. Over time however, the minaudiere became a jewellery accessory in its own right; they were often crafted from silver alloys, gold or platinum and richly decorated with vibrant enamels and precious gemstones, making them works of art in themselves. Today, minaudieres can be quite popular at auction, but as with any item of jewellery, the quality of materials, age and the maker of the piece will affect its value. Examples from the early to mid-century are usually the most popular, and makers such as Boucheron and Cartier attract the higher prices, but examples by Van Cleef & Arpels, who are credited with the creation of the minaudiere, are the most desirable. 

The sale saw further success with a collection of furniture from a country estate in Wales which fetched a handsome sum of £13,000 in total. Highlights from the furniture section include a George III mahogany chest of drawers which sold for £2600, and a 19th century pine breakfront wardrobe which fetched £2600. Furniture valuer and auctioneer Ian Woodward oversaw proceedings and was not surprised by these results; “There was no doubt in my mind that the furniture in this auction was going to achieve some impressive results – there was plenty of pre-sale interest to indicate just that. Some of our consignments were of particularly good quality but were also quite unusual. The wardrobe for example, was moulded to look like house keeper’s cupboard on the outside but had all the functions of a wardrobe to the inside, complete with fitted hat boxes. We’re finding that the items which achieve the highest prices at auction are those which are crafted well and serve a practical function, such as the chest of drawers which performed sold for such a fantastic price on Saturday.”

Keswick School toast rack sold £760

Elsewhere in the sale, a private consignment of silverware from a Cheshire based collector caught the attention of bidders, boasting pieces by some of Britain’s most renowned and sought-after silversmiths. The most impressive price came from an early 20th century silver toast rack by The Keswick School of Industrial Art. “The Keswick School was founded during the 19th century amidst the Industrial Revolution, when new mechanised manufacturing processes were being developed,” explains silver specialist Elizabeth Oliver. “Mass production in large smoky factories were the future – taking the personal journey out of design and creation. It subsequently became important to preserve traditional methods. Institutions such as the KSIA were essential in promoting the sentiment of the Aesthetic Movement and providing a space for unique works to be crafted. This delightful toast rack is a brilliant example of these sentiments.” Against a humble estimate, the bidding took off online, before eventually selling for £820. “This toast rack was a very early surviving example of Keswick silver, and quite unusual – spoons, bowls and napkin rings are more common, but toast racks less so, which explained it’s incredible performance on auction day.” A planished silver dish, also by the Keswick School fetched an impressive hammer price of £550.

The collection also included examples by celebrated Chester silversmith Sampson Mordan, which collectively sold for over £2300. “Chester silver makers always perform well at our auctions, and Sampson Mordan is one of the most collectable silversmiths on the market,” Elizabeth says. “Mordan’s pieces always have such a whimsy about them – he frequently collaborated with children’s illustrators and drew inspiration from animals. One of the most popular items from the collection was a mechanical silver pencil in the form of a pig – twisting his tail revealed the pencil inside! It’s charming little details such as this that really sets Mordan apart from his contemporaries and makes him such a desirable name in the saleroom.”

We are currently accepting entries for their forthcoming auctions, details of which can be found on at www.trevanionanddean.co.uk. If you would like to find out more about consigning, call 01948 800202 or email info@trevanionanddean.co.uk.