9 August 2018

Nigel Norman: I am fussy about what I buy. It has to be quality

Nigel Norman specialises in sporting items and cufflinks. He deals in fine jewellery from the eighteenth century to the nineteen seventies with particular emphasis in French and English manufacture. With his father, he owned Harvey and Gore in St.James’, Piccadilly. Fourteen years ago Nigel moved into Grays Antiques.

You are a second generation antique jewellery dealer, how would you say you have differentiated your business from the original one in Piccadilly?
I joined my father’s antique jewellery business in 1979 and he taught me the trade. Then in many ways, I followed on from there. At my father’s, we had very similar things to what I sell now. It is a very specialised and niche market, but I say, if you buy something you like, someone else is going to like it and want to buy it too.

What type of comments do people make about your collection?
They say, you have very lovely things. It is because, I am fussy about what I buy. It has to be quality. You buy things that you like yourself. People know me, and they bring items to me which are rather rare. I care about quality, condition and wearability.

Your collection of fine jewellery has a very distinct style. How would you describe it?
My priority is good quality. But the piece has to be artistically made as well, and it has to be wearable, understated, not ostentatious looking. I prefer buying pieces that are special but don’t necessarily look valuable. I like to be discreet. And customers come back to me.

I notice you have a particularly high concentration of French jewellery.
Yes, that’s right. I really love French jewellery. They are exquisite in terms of the quality of the design and superb in craftsmanship. I often go to Paris to buy. And I bring back pieces that are unique. My favourite is this silver and gold mounted nineteenth century diamante set brooch, shaped in an openwork bow with detachable pin. It encapsulates a whole era in imagination and design with absolute splendour. And in addition, of course, it has a very high inherent value with old-cut brilliant diamonds that total thirteen carats in weight.

What qualities are you looking for when buying antique jewellery?
I like artistry in manufacture and design, and I am always on the lookout for eighteenth century coloured stone pieces. They are very rare to find in good condition. A lot of jewellery today is following an earlier style. The difference is in the details.

What are your personal thoughts about the antique trade?
I was brought up in this business and I love it because it is my heritage. But we have to acknowledge that it is also a risky business, there are lots of ups and downs. And you tie up a lot of capital. In the end, however, you can only rely on your own specialised knowledge.

19th Century French Double Tied Diamond Set, Fine Quality Bow Brooch

Bangle 18 karat Gold French Lapis Lazuli and Diamond Half Hoop, c1910

Chaumet of Paris Golfing Brooch with Lapis Lazuli and Malachite c1960

Bracelet, 18 Carat Gold Sapphire and Diamond Trefoils in Original Case, 19th Century

Platinum & Diamond Set Bow Brooch, English c1920

Cartier 18k Gold and Coloured Stone Baton Cufflinks

Written by Titika Malkogeorgou.

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