Paris Auction of Ethnic Jewellery 12th Feb 2014

Paris Auction of Ethnic Jewellery 12th Feb 2014


Leaving the UK at 4.45 am in the middle of a serious weather event to catch a train going under the sea and all of the storms and floods may have seemed more surreal were I not so sleep deprived! The Eurostar seat was beckoning as a great place for a much needed sleep before the adventure in Paris would begin.

Finding the smiling face of a friend waiting to greet you at arrivals in an unfamiliar city is the best of sights, and following a warm greeting from Alaa Eddine Sagid and a traditional French breakfast the jewel chat was in full flow.

The route to the auction house was lined with Parisian shops and boutiques, some wonderful Judaica and a superb golden Boghdod pendant drew our attention in the crammed window of a Pawnbrokers shop.

As we approached the auction house we added ourselves to the eclectic group of people filling the pavement outside. As the wide swathe of highly polished glass doors opened our excitement was akin the thrill seekers finding a seat on a roller-coaster!

To prove that we were fully capable of self control, we toured the preview rooms of the other sales in the large red and white building before heading to the true focus of our day.

The room was already occupied by several browsing prospective buyers, who have clearly made directly for this space.

The walls of the room were mostly filled with items from the primitive art section of the catalogue, which would also be offered for sale on the following day, we knew however that our focus for the next several hours would be the contents of the glass display cabinets placed in the centre of the room.

Alaa asked me which piece I would like to see… reply was simply …’All of them!’ So we explored the room in an animated fashion, deep in discussion of each piece, and blissfully occupied, checking the details, completeness, repairs, construction types and general patina of these objects of desire!

I had been especially keen to see a particular Sirouan Headdress, a rarity indeed, and if honest the piece which I had contemplated placing a bid or two upon… In person the Headdress was a Chimera , two sets of Elements combined to make the one headdress the majority of which were in metal rather than silver. This is of course not unheard of, and this was after all an incredibly rare item. Yet I have to admit that the piece did not hold the same ‘magic as the only other incomplete example which I had encountered some years previously. This said, I was still a little tempted by this rare piece.

Overall the pieces which I had expected to impress me fell a little short, in particular the Ida ou Nadif pieces, other than a set of large and impressive ear hoops , were either heavily restored or far newer pieces that I had imagined them to be.

Others which had not been the ones to stand out in the catalogue were stunners!

An Ait Ouarzguit blue and yellow enamelled piece, resembling a chatelaine container of some type amongst some very interesting pieces including a hair ring and wonderful seal pendant in lot 62 were hidden gems. From the same region lot 105 a beautiful necklace with the rarest of beads was a firm favourite. A vast enamelled Hirz pendant with enamelling and spectacular openwork sides was also a star ( one which I know stole the heart of my fellow jewel hunter!) of this opulent show.

Lot 113 was really fascinating with some very unusual fibulae listed as from the Moyen Atlas, which Alaa and I studied and discussed for sometime. Very interesting combinations of craftsmanship and styling, when we asked to see the backs of the pieces we are still more intrigued, these pieces are some which I believe the jury of two are still digesting.. I only regret that I didn’t take a picture of the backs! In the same lot were the only set of Cow head Ha HA fibulae which I have ever seen featuring niello work.

The auction attendants seemed interested in our obvious enthusiasm, and my husband observed that if we were serious buyers at a future auction we needed to learn to be more subtle!

So viewings done for the day, and feeling that not so many people had attended the viewing, we set off to see some sights and drink some coffee with the thought that maybe it would not be so busy, and that there would deals to be had the next day!

We agreed to meet at the Auction house , so I went directly to the saleroom the next day. Upon arrival I was warmly greeted by a dear friend and wealthy owner of a high end gallery in Marrakech. I smiled and returned his warm greeting, while my fantasy of a bargain or two dissolved into the ether of the room!

The prices realised were from the very first lot far in excess of the estimates and of my budget! I watched from the back of the room as the Sirouan headdress was sold for 8 times the estimated price at 8000 Euros plus the buyers fee it was out of my league!

The breathtakingly fabulous khamsa collections soared , and rightly so, with one fine selection reaching 3500 Euros.

A foulet Khamsa with gold work was a rare beauty and possibly the best buy of the sale at 350 Euros!

The room was certainly an exciting place to be.

As we left empty handed but our hearts filled with wonder I did not regret for a moment the trip to Paris, and will certainly be looking out for future auctions to attend.

Thank you to Paris and to our perfect host there too.

Sarah Corbett

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