Jane Grace charmed at luncheon at The Silver Fund

Apparently all of Palm Beach has contracted a case of the merries because the money is flying around, the stores can’t keep the good bubbly on the shelf, and when people talk about “past due” they’re referring to a day at the Breakers Spa.
And the gatherings for which everybody was “too busy” during the bad old economic days? Well, they’re nonstop.

Even the bankers are happy again. Two of them, Victoria Ricker and Robert Riva of Morgan Stanley, recently hosted a luncheon in honor Jane Grace and her decades of support of and hands-on voluntarism at the Peggy Adams Animal Rescue League. The luncheon took place at The Silver Fund, the art/antiques/jewelry/silver store on Worth Avenue, and was co-hosted by store owner Michael James. There was champagne, caviar served on some of the exquisite Georg Jensen sterling pieces – what, you were expecting Corelle? — from the store’s cache, a seated luncheon at tables set with yet more fabulous silver, and the presentation to Jane of a gold charm with the Peggy Adams logo.

Best of all, there was a big fat donation to the League from Morgan Stanley in Jane’s honor.

See? Happy bankers.

There: board president Joanie Van der Grift, board members Pauline Pitt and Vicky Hunt; and Paula Butler, Candy Hamm, Jean Tailer, Kate Pressley, Arlette Gordon, Dale Coudert, Mashi Azmudeh and Susan Lloyd.

Then there was the cocktail reception honoring designers Suzanne Kasler, Gil Walsh, Lars Bolander, Jenny Garrigues, and William and Phyllis Taylor, who were selected to create the “designer vignettes” for the Palm Beach Jewelry, Art & Antique Show. Scott Diament and Campion Platt hosted the kickoff for the show, which opens Feb. 13.

There to raise a glass or two to the honorees were Pamela O’Connor, Nina Wasserman, Michel Cox Witmer, Tatiana Platt and Chelsea Menzies, who are young enough and beautiful enough to know that when somebody talks about a “lovely old thing,” they’re referring to the furniture.

The Silver Fund at Masterpiece London 2014

The prevailing wisdom is Masterpiece has now surpassed all others and can honestly be called the finest show on earth for decorative arts.  And for many international collectors it is their favorite show to visit. Masterpiece offers a hugely diverse range of exhibitors and their treasures, as well as dining at some of London’s finest establishments contained within the fair, against the backdrop of Christopher Wren’s Royal Hospital Chelsea with it’s 300-year history.  All of this walking distance from the heart of London.

I invite you to visit the fair for the last three days. And if you can’t make it this year, please make sure you put it in your diary for next year. – Michael James

Architectural Digest
“Booth upon booth is loaded with century-spanning eye candy, from the elegant to the extravagant: important jewels with supernova brilliance, magnificent paintings bearing serious signatures and head-spinning provenance, statement furniture demonstrating centuries of cabinetmaking prowess, and so much more. And that includes four chic temporary restaurants, one of which is a 56-table outpost of Le Caprice.”

“The glitterati, who visit London in their droves in June to attend sporting events from Ascot to Wimbledon as well as design, art and antique fairs, have adopted the five-year-old Masterpiece in chic Chelsea as a staple of the social calendar.”

Huffington Post
“With 158 galleries’ stands, you can wander past pictures by Warhol and Magritte, life-size horse sculptures by Nic Fiddian-Green, dazzling diamonds by Cartier or collections of medieval armour.”

A passion for silver

Michael James founded The Silver Fund in London two decades ago. Even as a child he was fascinated by the lustrous metal and would accompany his mother frequently to antique shops near their home in England, a place that once belonged to movie mogul J. Arthur Rank. “My parents had exquisite taste and I was always surrounded by beautiful things,” he says.

In late-1980s London, James began in the silver galleries on Bond Street where he worked among the world’s elite jewelers of gold and silver. An expansion to America soon followed with successful retail stores in New York and San Francisco. “The pieces in my shops have come from all four corners of the earth, individually sourced and hand-picked,” James says.

The recent grand opening of his 2,500-square-foot Worth Avenue gallery has Islanders abuzz. Having cultivated a “unique assortment of objects” for 30 years, this newest flagship store showcases 20th-century silver from such iconic names as Georg Jensen, Cartier, and Tiffany & Co., along with furnishings, mirrors and vintage Murano glass. “We have one of the best collections of 20th-century silver and art objects in the world — it’s simply a fact,” James says. For more information, call 561/629-5153 or visit www.thesilverfund.com.

Q: When did you first realize you had a love for collecting silver?
A: I’ve always had a fascination with the material and began collecting silver coins as a child. When I turned 18, I decided not to attend a university and instead, embarked on a career of buying and selling silver.

Q: Do you remember the first piece that captured your interest?
A: It was at my grandmother’s home. She had an amazing letter knife by Georg Jensen. Later, after I had been trading traditional Georgian silver for eight to none months, I was offered a Georg Jensen tea set. It was costly, but it was so fantastic and so revolutionary that I just had to have it. This was the defining moment that set me on the path to specialize in 20th-century silver, objects and design.

Q: How did you start your business?
A: It was the early 1980s. I started off in small markets in areas of South London that were quite edgy. It was there I met the most incredible cast of characters. Some came straight out of a Dickens novel and others from the London underworld. It was such an amazing experience for a young man who was educated with five members of the royal family and who had just come from a top English boarding school in Scotland.

Q: Why Palm Beach for your new location?
A: I’ve always loved Palm Beach and we’ve been doing various shows in the area for 17 years. I personally feel that the Island is one of the most civilized places in the United States. It’s filled with people that appreciate living with wonderful objects and fantastic interiors.

Two new galleries find Worth Avenue ‘draws the right crowd’

As real-estate professionals are prone to say, “It’s all about location.”

Michael James founded The Silver Fund, a London-based dealer of 20th-century decorative arts, in 1996. He had become acquainted with the Palm Beach market as a participant in the art and antiques fairs held each season at the Palm Beach County Convention Center in West Palm Beach.

James had a shop in London until 2008, when he decided to focus on selling via the international fair circuit. But he found that Palm Beach was the best market for the goods he handles, such as fine 20th-century silver; Italian and American furniture and decorative arts, dating from the 1950s to the 1970s; and vintage Cartier clocks, watches and objects.

Prices range from about $2,000 to $250,000.

“We have developed a great following here,” said James, who had been looking for a space on the island for several years. He jumped at the chance when the two-story storefront at 330 Worth Ave. became available last fall.

“It seemed that by opening on Worth Avenue, we would be able to work with clients in a more relaxed fashion than at a fair,” James said. “I wouldn’t open anywhere else but Worth Avenue. This street draws the type of client we cater to.”

“The fact that retail businesses that could choose to open anywhere in the country choose to open in Palm Beach reflects the town’s status as a premier shopping destination,” said Laurel Baker, executive director of the Palm Beach Chamber of Commerce. “And these new additions to the mix of businesses along Worth Avenue only make the island’s most prominent shopping street more appealing, and distinct, in the eyes of locals and visitors.”

The Silver Fund Finds a Permanent Home – On Worth Avenue no less

FAMILIAR to fairgoers in London and throughout the US The Silver Fund have opened a 2500 sq. ft. flagship store at 330 Worth Avenue in Palm Beach, a location to die for alongside the biggest names in luxury goods and fashion.

The Silver Fund are known for 20th century design, particularly the silverware of Georg Jensen, and now have the space to offer a wider range of 20th century decorative arts, including furniture.

British owner Michael James, who founded the firm 20 years ago in St. James’s, London, said of his move: “We have attracted many long time Palm Beach residents and were not satisfied seeing our clients only at the premier fairs we exhibit in New York, Palm Beach, Miami, London, Chicago and San Francisco.”

He continued: “We thought it would be best to have a flagship gallery where we could provide world class service at our client’s convenience. I expect to spend a lot of the Palm Beach winter season here.”

However, Michael will continue to live in London although he will be seeing even less of it in the future.

The Dazzling American International Fine Arts Fair in Palm Beach

The elegant and exclusive Preview Party of the 15th edition of the American International Fine Arts Fairin Palm Beach drew Newport Seen once again. and we returned again and again during the Fair for a closer look at the dazzling paintings, jewelry, furniture, photography, china, vintage furniture, suits of armor — and to hear the fascinating expert lectures, one on “Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Renoir and the advantage of old age“, given by Robert Ward, Chief Curator of the Norton Museum of Art. and repeated later in the week, by demand.

The attendees at the Vernissagewere greeted by stunning Graff models offering glasses of champagne, which decidedly set the mood, wearing exquisite jewelry by Graff Diamonds.Tiffany & Co., was there, along with art, antiquities, paintings and furniture. Dealers came from London, New York, Paris, Italy, Monaco….. The Convention Center in West Palm once again became an elegant architectural agora of fine shops, enclaves, dining areas, and interestingly spaced interior walls, its own evanescent Musée.

Newporters James (Jay) Serzan, and KSN (a media shy fellow) made the rounds greeted friends, studied the art works, and Mr. N. and was smitten with a Childe Hassam– like painting by John Henry Twachtman. Dress designer Annika, in her own  “Black Swan”  creation, and the elegant  Charlotte Hamilton, author of “FitFace” added drama to the evening.

Several Fernand Botero paintings were on display from different dealers, and there was a small Van Gogh portrait. An enormous 18th century French clock by Pierre Philippe Threniere, from the Toulouse Gallery,  gave new meaning to the word rococo. The lively jumble of French Moroccan café chairs, a set of 24, flanked the opening of Mallett Galleries, of New York and Bond Street, and attracted great attention.

Other lectures, interspersed throughout the week, and followed by caviar receptions in the VIP lounge, included “Fragile Beautry: Chinese Export Porcelain 1500-1900”, by Ron Fuchs II, Curator of the Reeves Collection, Washington and Lee University, and “Picasso: The Birth of Genius” by Marlene Strauss.

The Fair this year closed with record attendance of 42,500 and strong sales reported by a number of dealers. during 10-day event, with many dealers reported outstanding sales results. “We had the best fair in the 14 years that we have been participating in Palm Beach,” said arms and armor dealer Peter Finer of London. Italian goldsmith and jeweler Buccellati echoed these sentiments: “This was also the best year in our long fair participation as well.” In reporting multiple important sales, Jonathan Green of Richard Green Antiques commented “We were very pleased with our Palm Beach results this year.”

“The U.S. economy, the general mood of the attendees and our sales has clearly improved this year,” said Michael James of The Silver Fund. “All the right people were here this year”. One day we were processing three black American Express cards at the same time!”

Antique collectors’ corner: Georg Jensen silver

The son of a Danish knife grinder, Georg Jensen was born in 1866 in Raadvad, near Copenhagen. But when he died in 1935, the New York Herald saluted him as “the greatest silversmith of the last 300 years”.

The Jensen company has expanded to the point of having retail outlets in major cities throughout the world and a waiting-list for some of its current creations of between two and five years. Antique Jensen pieces are continually in demand. Here are 10 things to consider if you are thinking about collecting Georg Jensen silverware.

1 Would-be collectors will find jewellery for men and women, as well as cutlery and an extensive range of hollow wares. The latter include teapots, coffee pots, goblets and candelabra. There are also objets de vertu, such as letter openers and notepad covers.

2 One of the great attractions of Georg Jensen is the breadth of different styles. These include Arts & Crafts, Art Nouveau, Neo-classical and Art Deco. Despite such stylistic diversity, the designers have always managed to inject each piece with a distinctive “Jensen style”.

3 Prices rose about 15 per cent over the past decade, but levelled out during the recession. Typical examples would be an Art Nouveau pendant brooch valued at around £4,000, a Post-Modern cuff bangle at £3,000 or a “Blossom” pattern tray worth about £8,000. A pair of rare Thirties stone-set bonbonnieres could fetch as much as £45,000.

4 It is still possible to pick up unrecognised pieces for next to nothing. A brooch that I snapped up for 50p five years ago at a Midlands car-boot sale is now worth £2,000.

5 Much of Jensen’s success has been founded on its employment of highly talented designers from backgrounds as diverse as sculpture, fine art and architecture. Some collectors focus on particular designers, including Jensen himself, Johan Rohde (Modernism), Harald Nielsen (Art Deco) and Vivianna Torun Bülow-Hübe, known as Torun (Post-Modern).

6 The rarer early pieces, from 1904 to around 1914, are particularly sought after. They include brooches, earrings and buckles, and incorporate the shapes and motifs (pods, flowers, fruits) favoured in the Arts & Crafts and Art Nouveau styles.

7 Some collectors focus on specific patterns of hollowware. Examples to look out for are “Blossom” (from 1905); “Acorn” (from 1915); “Grape” (from 1918); and “Pyramid” (from 1925).

8 There are also many flatware (cutlery) patterns to choose from. My favourite, “Bernadotte”, was designed with fluted, silver handles and stainless-steel blades in 1939.

9 Also look out for “mixed-media” pieces, in which silver is combined with other materials. Examples include silver hollow wares with Bakelite handles, or colourful enamel (especially blue) interiors, as well as silver combined with gold, ivory, or semi-precious stones such as amber, lapis lazuli and onyx.

10 A list of identification marks can be found in the information box below. These include marks of origin and of specific designers, as well as silver content marks and the design numbers of specific pieces. Particularly useful for dating are the marks which, at different periods, include the name Georg Jensen, or GJ or GI, in different formats or patterns.

Find Out More

  • You can study Jensen at Goldsmiths Hall, the British Museum, the V & A and the Georg Jensen Museum in Copenhagen
  • Specialist dealers include The Silver Fund (www.thesilverfund.com) and there are many dealers at antique markets, such as London’s Portobello Road Market

Prime Source: The Silver Fund

San Francisco had its gold rush, but it took a 21st-century Briton, Michael James, to deposit the treasures of the Silver Fund, the American branch of his London silver gallery (now closed), at 472 Jackson Street, just a block from Gold Alley, where forty-niners’ gold dust was assayed. In the big back area, the Silver Fund displays hundreds of works by the pioneering Danish silversmith Georg Jensen; French silversmith Jean E. Puiforcat; William Spratling, who revived silversmithing in Taxco, Mexico; and modernist Mexican jewelry designer Antonio Pineda. (The shop’s front area houses another highly regarded silver purveyor, Argentum– the Leopard’s Head.)

“It is the largest collection of 20th-century silver on the West Coast,” asserts James. “Many of the top Californian collectors of silver are in the Bay Area, and they like to buy here.” At the heart of the collection are rare vintage pieces by Danish master Jensen, whose work is displayed in more than 100 museums around the globe. The Silver Fund is the world’s biggest source for Jensen estate silver.

“Georg Jensen is unrivaled as ‘the Father of Scandinavian Silver,’ and he’s one of the greats of the 20th century,” says James. In the early 1900s, when the public was intoxicated by the elaborate, swirling patterns of Art Nouveau, Jensen’s plates, bowls, and tea sets showcased his streamlined vision. “He was a bit of a contrarian. Jensen’s silver is more spare, with a distinctive matte finish, than the other artists of his day.” Inspired by nature, Jensen highlighted his elegant work with subtle designs incorporating acorns, berries, leaves, and clusters of grapes, which became his signature motif. “He took no shortcuts. Everything was handmade.”

Jensen also taught many of the masters who succeeded him. One of the most notable Jensen studio pieces, found at the Silver Fund, is a two-foot-long covered serving platter ($265,000) created in 1927 by his colleague and brother-in-law, Harald Nielsen. The hand-hammered silver took a thousand man-hours to make. “There’s a warmth to the finish, a moonlight-glow patina,” says James. The cover is topped with a leaping dolphin and curling wave.

The Silver Fund also has exquisite Mexican- influenced bowls by Spratling, bold jewelry by Pineda, and trays by Puiforcat, who challenged the conventional aesthetics of his day with his sleek Art Deco designs. The shop also indulges in the occasional serendipitous oddity: for example, a beautifully sculpted, foot-high sterling silver bull produced circa 1910 by Christofle ($18,500). Perfect for the cattleman in the family, it’s the near-proverbial bull in a silver shop.

The Silver Fund exhibits at 15 antique shows a year, including Palm Beach, New York, and San Francisco; check the website for updates. www.thesilverfund.com

Silver Collectors Take a Shine to Jensen

It isn’t that Georg Jensen silver is easy to steal. It’s just that everyone likes the Danish design house right now, and that includes thieves.

Queen Rania of Jordan is a fan. But apparently so were the four people who in June stole the 60-setting continental silverware she had ordered from Jensen’s workshop in Copenhagen. (They were later arrested.) The month before, silverware valued at 800,000 kroner (€107,500) was taken from a Jensen exhibit at the National Art Gallery in Copenhagen. And last month thieves made…


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