Updated: May 23
When it comes to fine art, estate jewelry, furnishing and décor, it’s all in the name. Be it your iconic brands like Tiffany and Cartier in jewelry, Picasso and Dali in art, or Herman Miller and Theodore Alexander in furnishings, they all have one thing in common: they are “the money.” At auction or on the secondary market, these items can still command the value as they are the names people think of when they think of luxury and expensive, high quality items.
When you really delve into the secondary market, the hidden gems are the high-end names that are not household names. When inspecting fine, high-end looking items, I always look for a name. If it’s not signed, I ask, “Where did you get this? Do you remember the maker?” Privately, I used to say, to myself of course, if I haven’t heard of it, it’s most likely I just didn’t know anyone that could afford it. Great rule of thumb when you've been in the business long enough.
The first time I ran into Mario Buccellati jewelry, I was helping with an estate sale in Sedona and saw a beautiful aquamarine ring. When I inspected it with the loop I saw the name Buccellati. I had never heard of it, but when I did a little homework, my jaw hit the floor. I saw similar rings for $75,000 and the like. Several of the other pieces were also by the same designer. I quickly became an expert. It’s funny, but it’s how we all learn this business.
A Prescott home with Le Corbusier chairs was a similar situation for me. They were odd and mid-mod looking, but so is some IKEA furniture. After finding their tags and a little research, we determined them to be approximately $6,000. I have since found several of them in the Valley, now that I know what they are, and again, its how you learn. If you have a passion for this business, love history or making a buck, you won't forget the big wins and the "names" that made you the money.
And don’t get me started on works of art. No one can know, let alone remember, all of the listed artists with six-figure auction records. It’s amazing how many artists there are that can be of significant value. Does the name James Ensor mean anything to you? It didn’t mean a thing to me either. Ensor was a Belgian painter and print-maker. A wonderful woman had come by with a little group of prints, and I said I would be happy to have a look. She just was not sure before she donated them to Good Will. It turned out she had a little gem. It was a nine-by-five inch “sleeper” that sold for $1,800 for her a few months later. Just a small paper print.
Needless to say, I was just as surprised as she was. In fact, Ensor has some large prints that can be valued as high as $100,000. And see, I have never forgotten that name now. He may have a name to those “in the know,” but to those who may have a print of his in the garage, a future thrift store or yards sale find. To me, I guess, it’s all in the name.