Interview with Marielle Whiting of Woolley & Wallis

An interview with Marielle Whiting, Associate Director and Jewellery Specialist FGA….

Marielle started working in the Jewellery Department in January 2009. During her time at Woolley and Wallis she has become a Fellow of the Gemmological Association, has written articles for magazines including The Lady and Antique Collectors Club, and is on the vetting committee for the Olympia and LAPADA fairs. Marielle now heads up the Department and has been appointed as an Associate Director of the company.

Can you tell us more about the jewellery department?

We hold four jewellery auctions per year, each containing a diverse range from modern jewellery to pieces as early as the Roman Empire, and everything in between. We focus on quality and the sales are predominantly antique. I travel the country (and indeed the world) to consign for an auction, selling across the globe to a huge international buying base as well as to many private collectors in the UK. Last year for the first time weheld a single owner collection of jewellery as a stand-alone sale; every single lot was sold, with the hammer price tripling the lower estimate. The department has grown considerably over the past decade.

Some might not know that the auction room is an excellent place to buy jewellery for a fraction of the cost of new pieces – what should prospective buyers look out for?

Quality. Whether the piece is £100 or £100,000, look for good quality stones and good workmanship and if you are unsure, ask.

Are there certain styles proving more popular at the moment?

Signed jewellery from the early 20th century has been desirable for a long time, but in recent years we have seen a dramatic surge in the demand for post- war jewellery. Anything from the 1970s is particularly popular at the moment.

WoolleyMany of us have pieces sitting untouched in the jewellery box at home – what types of pieces would you encourage clients to bring in for a valuation?

Anything which is not being worn, and I say this to people on a daily basis, why not liquidate and buy something you will wear. The market for jewellery is strong at auction and our clients are often surprised by the high prices achieved.

Have there been any truly memorable pieces you’ve sold? We’re sure that there have been some which you would have loved to take home yourself!

At the end of every auction it is always hard to say goodbye to the jewellery, but I know the pieces go on to be loved and worn by their new owners. The most memorable item has to be a pair of natural pearl earrings sold for £1.6million, which were previously owned by Romanian Princess Elena von Hohenzollern; the pearls were exceptional in their size and quality. Natural pearls
are steeped in history: the Ancient Greeks believed pearls were the tears of the Gods; for hundreds of years they have been traded, worn, admired and revered. Considered a symbol of beauty,  
purity and fertility, their desirability heightened because men risked their lives in finding them. Cleopatra famously drank a dissolved natural pearl as a demonstration of her wealth. Elizabeth I wore pearls as a symbol of her chastity and affluence. Today they are still one of the rarest and most sought-after gems.

Finally, what are the highlights in the next sale?

We have a big collection of natural pearlsincluding two particularly fine single rownatural pearl necklaces. We also have a collection of early rings dating back to the Renaissance, as well as a beautiful ArtDeco brooch and some more flamboyant items from the 1960s and 1970s. Find out more here

About Woolley & Wallis

Established in 1884, Woolley & Wallis is the leading UK regional Fine Art Auction House. The company holds around thirty specialist sales each year, including 20th Century Design, Antiquities, Asian Art, British, European & American Ceramics and Glass, Chinese Paintings, Furniture, Japanese Art, Jewellery, Medals, Coins & Armour, Paintings, Silver and Tribal Art.

Marielle Whiting FGA Associate Director and Jewellery Specialist Tel: 01722 424595