Antiques Trade Talks – Caroline Hawley

Caroline HawleyCaroline Hawley is a partner in East Yorkshire auction house Hawleys and a well-known expert face on the BBC’s Bargain Hunt, Flog-it and Put Your Money.

What areas or items are currently selling well?

Good quality Chinese items are continuing to sell really well. The continuing popularity of amber shows no signs of abating. Something rare, stylish or unusual has a greater chance of gettingthe money. For example, this Lenci figure from the 1930’s despite lacking fingers on one hand and having a couple of chips sold in our recent auction for £2,400. Elsewhere, a 19th rare Cotterill patent corkscrew lacking brush stunned the room by going to an internet bidder in Holland for £1500.

A 1930's Lenci figure

What do you think are the current ‘good investment’ items – ones to watch?

I’m good but not that good! Seriously though, I think that by the time you find out what it is, the trend has already moved on. Good 20th century design by lesser known designers is palette table designed by Hornsea pottery designer John Clappisonwell worth looking at. Near to my home town this 1956 palette table designed by Hornsea pottery designer John Clappison is a wonderful example.

I also think that good Georgian furniture will make a come back. Prices have hit rock bottom and are now showing signs of recovery. Buy Georgian bureaux while you still can. For their sheer practicality and classic good looks they can’t be beaten.

What antiques do you have at home?

I don’t collect any one area, but do have an eclectic mix of everything from patch boxes and samplers, to vintage costume, and I do love all things French. This gorgeous table-top ormolu-mounted jardinière is always full of seasonal plants.

ormolu mounted jardinière

What do you think will be the antiques of the future?

I think that gold and silver charm bracelets will make a reappearance as a backlash to the modern equivalents. The prolific copies are seldom the quality of the real thing and can never have a resale value. We should bring back the charm bracelet. I can’t think of a better way to get a child started on collecting with individual charms to mark every one of life’s milestones. It should be at the top of everybody’s christening present list. I have recently acquired a gavel for mine!

How is the industry changing and what will it look like in the future?

The advent of the internet is the biggest change to the industry, opening up the sale room to a global audience. It is now very rare to find a sleeper in a provincial sale room. In the future I believe there will be less live auctions and more online only sales, which would be sad as they lack the drama and theatre of the real thing. No amount of condition reports, however good, make up for viewing in the flesh.

barrel designed by Gallé

What antiques or artworks would you buy if money were no object?

If money were no object I would buy a piece of furniture designed by either Louis Marjorelle or Emile Gallé. This barrel designed by Gallé in 1904 is in the Pommery champagne cave in Reims and combines two of my favourite things: champagne and Art Nouveau! With a 75,000 litre capacity it’s probably a little large for most parties!

You’re down to your last 50 quid – what antiques/art would you buy?

Down to my last £50 I would head to York racecourse for the car boot sale held most Saturdays during the summer and hope to find a few more vintage designer dresses to add to my Caroline Hawley in vintage dressextensive collection. I snapped up this gorgeous Christian Dior 1950’s example there a few years ago for the princely sum of £4!

Where are your favourite antique hunting destinations?

Guide to brocantesMy favourite places to buy, and it’s no contest, are Newark antique and collectors fair at the showground, and in France, Le Déballage du Mans, held once a month from 8am until just after noon, it is an amazing international trade-only fair. For hunting out the best French vide-greniers and brocantes pop a calendrier des brocantes in your pocket along with a few euros and away you go!

What are some of the biggest mistakes that buyers make?

Don’t ever buy with the expectation of a profit. Should that happen if and when you wish to sell, that’s great, however, many things have dropped enormously in price. Buy because you love an object and want it to be part of your life. Always view a sale before bidding or at least get a condition report, and with furniture get the measurements. Nothing is worse than falling in love with and buying an item then finding out afterwards it doesn’t fit through the door!

Do antiques appeal to young buyers and, if not, how can the industry reach out to them?

I am delighted to say that we have increasing numbers of young people buying pieces to furnish their homes. Recently a young couple bought an 18th-century oak table and chairs from us, later proudly sending me a picture of it polished up and in use. My own son has several pieces of antique furniture, including a four poster bed, his Grandfather’s low boy and a kist. Once youngsters get through the door of a shop or sale room they quickly realise they can furnish a home at a fraction of the cost of buying new and will get considerably better quality. We have to encourage them to have the confidence to think more individually and not to just follow the crowd.

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