Ashley Jones is an auctioneer and valuer at Shropshire auction house Trevanion & Dean, based in Whitchurch, Shropshire. He joined the firm in 2015 after leaving art college. Ashley has a particular passion for Asian Arts, decorative arts and gemmology. He is a member of The Society of Jewellery Historians. A self-confessed ‘Georgian dandy at heart’, he tells us why antiques are appealing to the younger generation and his growing, eclectic home collection.
What areas/items are currently selling well?
The market for Asian Arts has continued to perform strongly in recent months. The attics of Britain’s country homes never fail to surprise us and continue to yield treasures from the East. Whether it’s a Northern Song Dynasty Ru-ware brush washer, selling for £28 million, or a Yongzheng Zhadou selling for £21,000. Chinese porcelain has not failed the industry by releasing both shocking and enlightening auction hammer prices.
We are also finding that jewellery and silver is performing particularly strongly, especially small enamelled pieces.
What do you think are the current ‘good investment’ items – ones to watch?
Pardon the pun, but in my opinion current investment items to ‘watch’ out for would be vintage timepieces. From art deco Cartier cocktail watches, to classic 1950’s Rolex’s and stylish 1970’s Patek Phillipes, these are something everyone should be buying, buying, buying!
I predict these items will be even more popular in years to come due to the limited production, reliable craftsmanship and ‘one-off’ appeal. Everybody needs to know the time so why on earth not do it in style? With an ever-growing tech-orientated population, I think the desire for a physical, mechanical object with timeless appeal will rocket!
What antiques do you have at home?
When at home I’m surrounded by an eclectic mix of antiques, all of which I absolutely love! I have a small collection of 18th-century German and Chinese porcelain, my favourites being a large Qianlong export armorial bowI and a pair of Meissen botanical plates! The ‘Ashley Jones’ collection is ever expanding!
What do you think will be the antiques of the future?
The thought of predicting the antiques of the future is rather daunting. I would suggest the items that would realise high prices in the future are
those that inspire a nostalgic appeal in collectors today. Areas of interest may be gaming and digital technology, Pokemon and iconic film ephemera… If only I had a crystal ball!
Personally, these items leave me a little cold, I’m always being told I was born 200 years too late… I am a Georgian dandy at heart!
How is the industry changing and what will it look like in the future?
The antiques industry is changing now faster than ever. Auction houses, dealers and private collectors who use the web as a window for sales, viewings and enquiries are ultimately revolutionising the environment we work in. The opportunity to purchase online provides a more efficient and streamlined process for many professionals.
However, the thought of dealing with antiques digitally is somewhat saddening. These items that we love and strive for have connected us for centuries. The joy of antiques is how tactile they are and, for me, there will never be a substitute for handling a piece.
Tell us some trade secrets – what are your top tips for buying antiques?
Shhh… My top secret for buying antiques would be to ensure you buy for want not need! Pieces with solid and intriguing provenance are also items to look out for. Buy items which tell a story, make you smile and essentially provide happiness.
What antiques/artworks would you buy if money were no object?
Gosh, if money were no object I would buy a Monet Water-Lily and ‘The Birth of Venus‘ by Botticelli (Polar opposites I know!) Oh, and of course an Imperial Russian Fabergé egg!
You’re down to your last 50 quid – what antiques/art would you buy?
My last £50… I would be inclined to buy a 19th-century English needlework sampler. Practised time after time again until correct, samplers act as a time capsule and help document our past.
Where are your favourite antique hunting destinations?
Being a proud Salopian, Shropshire is spoilt for choice with many small provincial antique emporiums and boutique shops, all of which offer a great selection of antiques, many ‘fresh to the market’! Starting in Whitchurch and heading southwards to Ludlow and calling in at Shrewsbury and Church Stretton en-route, this would provide a great antique treasure trail!
What are some of the biggest mistakes that buyers make?
One of the most common mistakes that buyers make, especially when bidding at auction, is being pipped at the post and not going that extra bid for an item you have waited all day for! I often remind buyers that when an item comes up for auction it can often be bought by a private individual.
This means the item you fell in love with may not come up for grabs again for generations to come! Remember, you may never get the chance to own it again. Go that extra bid!
Do antiques appeal to young buyers and, if not, how can the industry reach out to them?
I’m always disappointed when I hear people saying the demand for antiques will die out with my generation. I do believe strongly that antiques appeal to the younger generation. During Art college, I was surrounded by like-minded individuals who were all so passionate about antiques and the art works of our past.
These very people will effectively be the new generation of specialists, collectors and dealers. ’Millennial babies’ are paving the way for the future of antiques. We are doing this by scrapping the antiques caveat of ‘collectables’ and replacing it with wonderfully intricate objects of virtue, fabulous hand-crafted furniture and historic pieces of art.
I believe that these are just a few examples, which have the younger generation fighting to own. When antiques have that ‘one-off’ appeal and are accompanied with strong historically important provenance… we want it! For my generation, I have found we are turning away from mass-produced collectables and tending more towards quality pieces. Don’t under-estimate us… we are the future!