Cut, Colour, Clarity, Carat and Certification are terms associated with diamonds, but to most they are just words that require interpretation and a skilled eye to determine the rough from the smooth. Developing an eye for gems of all sizes, shapes and colours is rare skill and you would expect to find those adept in the world of Gemmology in expensive jewellery shops in London, Paris or New York…but we have one of the best right here in Shropshire.
Maryanne was born and brought up in Bridgnorth. She went to Bridgnorth Endowed School and like many successful A-Level students opted to go to university to experience her first taste of freedom from Shropshire life. As a History of Art graduate from the University of Reading she came back to the county just as the recession was biting and job prospects were few and far between. However, she was determined to stay close to friends and family and quickly found an opportunity with a local auctioneers in Wolverhampton. This part time introduction to a world of strange, valuable and historical items sparked something in Maryanne that would only grow in the years to come.
‘It was my auntie who said I should apply to work with Halls, that they were a good company to work for, so I sent the Director of Fine Art at the time, Jeremy Lamond, an email asking if they would consider me for a work experience placement.’ Maryanne spent the following three months visiting country houses, photographing exquisite treasures and researching curios that time had forgotten. It was stimulating and fed her desire to understand and investigate historic works of art. She had found her perfect job. However, it was not to be. After three months her work experience expired and she was forced to find work in a printing company. A year and more passed until her fairy godmother of an auntie came up trumps again. ‘I’ve seen a job at Halls Maryanne! You like photography don’t you? They need a photographer’
Photographer or not, it was a foot in the door for her to get back to what she loved. Following success at interview Maryanne proceeded to spend six months photographing and researching everything from pots to paintings, dolls to desks and then the door opened wider. Having shown interest and initiative Maryanne was given the chance to qualify as a Gemmologist with the Gemmological Association of Great Britain, it was the opportunity she had been patiently waiting for.
‘Suddenly I had no life. I was studying more than I had for my degree and working full time, it was exhausting. After two years I passed my two theory tests and a practical test to become an FGA (Fellow of the Gemmological Association) in fact I was top of the class and received a trophy and shield.’ Shortly after Maryanne went to London where she passed her DGA (Diamond grading member of the Gemmological Association) topping the class again. Reflecting she says
‘You never hear about qualifications like this when you are at school, my friends found it fascinating that I could value rare gems and diamonds. Now I have the opportunity to meet fascinating people, see their jewellery and hear their stories.’
Maryanne now takes to the rostrum at Halls every month and auctions jewellery and silver. She holds qualifications in an internationally valued niche that bring people to Britain from all corners of the globe to learn. ‘People say to me why don’t you go to London, work for Christies or Sothebys so you can sell the huge diamonds worth tens of thousands of pounds. But that’s not why I enjoy jewellery. If all I did all day was value large diamonds there would be no story, no personality, no soul. I like working for a regional auction house because there is genuine excitement when a big diamond, ruby or sapphire comes in and it’s the people I meet that make my work so interesting.’
Maryanne has developed a deep love of jewellery that transcends market value and is instead rooted in culture, stories and history. ‘So much jewellery was lost when the Victorians melted pieces down to keep up with the changing fashions. I love to find period pieces that have stayed out of the melting pot...rubies, sapphires and emeralds are having a surge at the moment as people look for alternatives to diamonds and this is sparking an interest in period jewellery.’ At this point Maryanne pauses before uttering the most profound statement of our conversation,
‘If you’ve inherited some jewellery and you’re not going to wear it you should at least find out what it is and what it’s worth by bringing it to someone like me who will value it for free. Then you can decide whether to wear it or let someone else have the pleasure whilst you spend the money on something you love.’
It is with this comment that Maryanne sums up why we all watch the Antiques Roadshow, Flog It or any of the other antiques programmes. It is about understanding the history and story of an object before choosing whether we love it more than the financial reward we could realise by selling it to an appreciative buyer. It’s the excitement of finding out about a family heirloom and realising its value.
If you wish to know more about your jewellery get in touch with Maryanne for an appraisal of your items.