Palm Beach Society Magazine recently interviewed The Silver Fund’s founder and owner Michael James for the Worth Going column.
Easy-to-read text is below the image below.
The Silver Fund is… Worth Going
FIRST, A QUESTION I THINK A LOT OF PEOPLE HAVE WHEN THEY WALK IN AND SEE SUCH A DIVERSE COLLECTION… WHY IS YOUR BUSINESS CALLED THE SILVER FUND?
The company was co-founded in London in 1996 by me with a consortium of investors to buy and sell estate silver from the nest Danish silversmith Georg Jensen — it was thus a fund and we took the company private in 2008. Later we expanded into silver from other makers, then after the opening of the shop in Palm Beach we expanded into furniture and design as we had an amazing 2500 square feet to fill.
SO YOU WERE IN LONDON?
Yes, we had a shop on Bond Street before moving to St. James Street in London. We opened in New York on Madison Avenue at 77th and also San Francisco after having had a successful silver concession within Gumps, the famous department store. We were also doing fairs and exhibitions around the world — Los Angeles, Chicago, Hong Kong, etc.
HOW DID YOU GET YOUR START?
I have always loved buying and selling beautiful things. I started at 18 and it was a hobby that turned into a business and the only way to keep collecting was to keep buying and selling.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE PALM BEACH?
We have been exhibiting in Palm Beach for over two decades, starting with the American International Fine Arts Fair. We always enjoyed coming to Palm Beach in the winter to see our friends and clients and to make new ones. The fair was full of the best dealers in the world — it was amazing. There is no where else in the world like Palm Beach. When this space on prime Worth Avenue became available, we couldn’t pass it up.
DO YOU YOU STILL DEAL IN GEORG JENSEN SILVER?
Yes, for a long time we were the largest dealer in Georg Jensen hollowware and flatware in the world having published the definitive book on the subject. We still have a very large collection, but specialize in only the finest pieces now.
(Read more about our collection of Georg Jensen by clicking here.)
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE PIECE?
We recently purchased an incredible sh dish. We have a large selection of trays that came from an estate that had specially ordered them directly from Georg Jensen. It’s unusual to be able to find such a large collection of trays.
WHAT OTHER SILVER DO YOU DEAL IN?
Jean E. Puiforcat — French and Mexican. Jean Després — an amazing silversmith who designed and made all of the pieces himself who had an Aeronautical background. Also we showcase Tiffany, Cartier objects and thousands of different items.
WHAT DOES THE SILVER FUND SPECIALIZE IN NOW?
Furniture and lighting from the 50s, 60s and 70s. Fantastic designers including Vladimir Kagan, Karl Springer, Milo Baughman and Paul Evans amongst others. On top of this we have one of the nest collections of 50s, 60s and 70s Murano art glass available for sale in the U.S.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE DESIGNER?
It is difficult to pick, because they are so different, but Vladimir Kagan is a design stand out — his pieces are timeless. A few months before he passed away we had the good fortune of meeting him as he was a well-known Palm Beach resident. He was delighted to see a sofa in our gallery that he had custom designed for a client in the 70s and he said it should be in a museum.
DO THE CLIENTS INTERESTED IN MID-CENTURY FURNITURE MOSTLY HAVE MODERN AND CONTEMPORARY HOUSES?
Many of our clients have classic Palm Beach houses. Several of our clients have beautiful Mizner homes and the pieces look incredible, because they provide a wonderful contrast. They also work well with how people live now. The furniture is comfortable. The colors are vibrant and compliment the amazing colors and light of Palm Beach and most importantly, they were handmade in America, before mass manufacturing moved to China.
DO YOU REUPHOLSTER THE FURNITURE?
Yes, we reupholster all of the sofas and chairs. Choosing the fabrics and colors is one of our favorite aspects of the furniture business. We work with a few very talented local upholsters and restorers to make sure the pieces are all in excellent condition and immediately ready to live with.
ARE MOST OF YOUR CLIENTS IN PALM BEACH?
We have clients around the entire world. That is partly because we’ve been doing fairs around the world for years but also because Palm Beach is a very international city. One day last week our shipper picked up pieces that were going to clients in Miami, Bermuda, as well as the South of France.
WHY DID YOU EXPAND INTO FURNITURE AND DESIGN?
We’ve always loved design and bought things for our own homes. When we took the gallery in Palm Beach we had more space than in previous shops so it seemed like a natural progression. We have created a lifestyle shop which is hard to find in many other places in the world.
IS THERE A COMMON THEME THROUGH EVERYTHING YOU DEAL IN?
Everything we sell is the best of the best when it was originally made. They weren’t pieces that were mass produced, but rather, very expensive furniture in its day and it still shows — because they are of the highest quality.
WHERE DO YOU SOURCE YOUR ITEMS FROM?
We buy a lot direct from estates where we get to select an odd piece here and there, literally, and we reject hundreds of items in order to find the one real exceptional piece that makes its way to the gallery door.
DO DESIGNERS USE YOUR GALLERY AS A RESOURCE?
We have maybe a 100 or so top designers that visit our store when hunting for items for their clients’ projects, they always want that one accent piece that they simply can’t find anywhere else. It’s exciting to be a top resource for so many talented taste makers.
WHAT WOULD YOU RECOMMEND TO PEOPLE READING THIS?
Visit our store and be inspired — many people out there have been hugely successful due to their financial literacy but we feel that many need that extra inspiration for visual literacy, if we can assist with that, we would love to.
Palm Beach Society is the social magazine of Palm Beach. It focuses on all the major fundraising activities which take place throughout the year, to raise money and support for a wide variety of charities and non-profit organizations which are committed to serve the local community.