Your input, as always, is priceless. I just wish I could publish all your comments but hey - something has to be left for memoirs :-)
The first one is from a concerned lawyer, second comes from the desk of a disappointed husband and the third from lady who believes that I would publish anything - even off topic copy-and-paste tweets. And she was not wrong...
I know this is highly unusual, however, I thought I might ask whether this gentlemen has put in a claim with a lawyer for his accident. If it is not too much trouble, would you be able to ask him directly? I am concerned that, as a result of his injury, he may not have canvassed this issue, to his detriment.
If you are uncomfortable in contacting him, I understand, but would ask that you do let me know in either event.
Further to your featured bad luck Rolex story, I have one too. Many years ago my wife was a flight attendant for Qantas. She was doing a trip from Dubai to London. At the end of the journey all the staff who worked in first class were given a gold Rolex by one of the passengers - an Arab sheik. Apparently this was not an unusual practice in the seventies. I guess that nowadays the super rich would have their own private jets. Sadly my beloved was only working in business class and missed out on the gold Rolex.
My husband sent me this from the online 'Economist'. It is not about your favourite subject of watches but the buying and selling of an heirloom gold chain that involved valuations from Sotheby's and Christies and the consequences of going to Court. No doubt the ruling could also apply to a very special watch.
Please keep sending out your emails as I enjoy reading your comments.
Kind regards, C.J.
The art of auction valuation
Matters of opinion
March 2nd 2012, 23:29 by P.W. | LONDON
CAVEAT vendor. Art is not science, so it quite literally pays for sellers and buyers to understand the rules of what can be a very costly game. For many people this will be the most salient message of the High Court verdict handed down last night by Judge Mark Pelling QC, following the week-long trial of a suit brought by the Lord Coleridge against Sotheby's, an auction house.
Lord Coleridge claimed that the auction-house expert, Elizabeth Mitchell, was negligent when she gave an auction valuation of a treasured family heirloom. The historic gold chain of office had been in his family for generations, and the Coleridges (distant relatives of the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge) believed it dated from the mid-16th century. Lord Coleridge had expected that the estimate for his rare Tudor jewel would be £500,000 or more. Ms Mitchell, however, proposed that it was from the late 17th century, and gave it an estimate of £25,000 to £35,000. This, Lord Coleridge claimed, had cost him a good deal of money. He sued for £415,000.
The case is fascinating but complicated. Lord Coleridge owned an almost six-foot long gold chain of office—the kind worn on grand occasions by the Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, a court that was dissolved in the late 19th century. John Duke Coleridge was the last person to serve, and the gold chain was his. According to family tradition it might even have been the gift of Henry VIII.
Lord Coleridge did not want to sell this emblem of a distinguished ancestor; a jewel that connected his family to a formidable king. But, as he told this writer, he always saw it as a lifeboat, too. If ever times got really bad, its sale would save the family. Such circumstances came to be in 2006, when his daughter could not afford to maintain the house that had been in their family since 1796. The house and its contents were put on the market. Lord Coleridge launched his golden lifeboat, expecting that its sale would allow them to keep the house. But Sotheby's disappointing valuation of his chain seemed to rule this out. Instead, they sold the family home, and its buyer, Max Norris, wanted the chain with it. He offered Sotheby's high auction estimate of £35,000 and Lord Coleridge accepted.
In 2008 Mr Norris chose to auction off the chain at Christie's. There it was catalogued as Tudor and sold for a hammer price of £260,000.
Either Sotheby's had it right or Christie's did. The chain was either Tudor or it was not. Lord Coleridge sided with Christie's valuation and sued. He claimed that if Elizabeth Mitchell (now retired) had spent more time studying his chain, it would have earned a much higher estimate.
The gripping trial was part family drama, part exposition of goldsmiths' techniques and a crash course in English legal history. The cross-examinations were lively; the hectoring tone of the claimant's barrister was occasionally undercut by the comic failure of his wig to stay on his head. At the core of the case was the search for documentary evidence that would prove the chain was Tudor. None emerged. As a result, the case had to rely on expert testimony.
High-calibre art experts have long experience, deep knowledge and a good eye. In this area, Sotheby's was more fortunate (or canny) in its choices than was Christie's. Charles Truman, an ex-director of Christies and an authority on antique gold objects and jewels, was Sotheby's expert witness. Marian Campbell and Philippa Glanville, widely respected authorities on early metal work (and both ex-Victoria & Albert curators), shared his view that the chain is not Tudor.
Lord Coleridge lost his case. The judge did rule, however, that Sotheby's should have told him that in a private sale it is usual to double the lower auction estimate; he ought to have asked Mr Norris to pay £50,000 rather than £35,000. He was therefore awarded compensation of about £20,000. But because he lost the case, Lord Coleridge has to pay 90% of most of its costs, estimated at £1m. Hearing the verdict was like listening to a morality tale. There was much to learn from it.
Essentially, if a work of art or an antique is of personal or financial importance, it pays to get a second opinion if you don't much care for the first one. The job of an expert is to use acquired skills and natural gifts to narrow the gap between opinion and fact. The better the expert, the more narrow the gap—but it never disappears
entirely. Experience teaches collectors, dealers and art historians that mistakes are unavoidable. Learning from them is often more beneficial and less expensive than going to court.
As it happens, the chain was bought at Christie's in 2008 by Christopher Moran, who has built on enormous Tudor-style house alongside the Thames. Perhaps he will not mind having a collar that now is widely considered to be Tudor style, rather than the real thing.