Benjamin Miller interviewed Katherine Purcell—principal in the London jewelry firm Wartski—for the third episode of The Magazine ANTIQUES’ podcast Curious Objects. In this excerpt from their conversation, Purcell offers advice for new collectors. First, be brave. Second, be on the que vive: much of your success will depend on your ability to spot a forgery.
Benjamin Miller: What’s a piece of advice that you would give to someone who’s just feeling their way into this area?
Katherine Purcell: I would say handle as much as you possibly can. One can read as many books as are available, one can look at as many images on the Internet as you care to—and, of course, now that’s a very useful tool. But it’s the handling of the piece, in the end, that will give you the most possible information. Examine exactly how it was put together, how many techniques are involved in the work, how is it built up, the weight, the choice of materials. Nothing is chance. So, it’s by handling as much as you can and being able to compare pieces that really is how you learn the most. And be brave. Walk into jewelry shops, however intimidating they look. Go and handle whatever you can before auctions that are available to you. It does take bravery because I know that I was very shy about doing such things myself, but that is really the only way to learn, is the hands-on experience. The more you handle, the more you can also tell whether something has been tampered with in some way—
Benjamin Miller: Sure.
Katherine Purcell: Or whether you feel whether the texture of something feels slightly awry, whether you suspect it may have been re-enameled, for instance—
Benjamin Miller: Mhmm.
Katherine Purcell: —whether marks—maker’s marks, date marks—may be superimposed. Whether certain marks may have been etched out, even. The most abominable things happen that you would never guess at when you’re starting out. And I think it’s only by close examination that you will learn the most, but it does take a lot of bravery.
Benjamin Miller: I am very well familiar with that. But there are plenty of friendly jewelry dealers . . .
Katherine Purcell: Well, we pride ourselves on being friendly jewelers.