When last we met I was on the verge of taking my seat at the auction house, preparing to face a battle royale for a silver chalice that I had espied in an online catalogue for the sale of the effects of “Lady ….”
After the departure of the magnifying-glass wielding gentleman, I sidled up to the silver counter and asked to view the chalice which the tattooed and hirsute assistant duly delivered into my eager hands.
Conscious that any indication on my part of excessive appreciation might unleash a gaggle of hagglers that would know they were onto something, I maintained my best poker face, assisted no doubt by my prodigious, and I must say, very manly beard.
While feigning complete disinterest in the chalice, I took furtive glances at the hallmarks, noted the method of manufacture and a few other points that thirty years of collecting had taught me to look out for. Hence I determined that the chalice was indeed of great age (exactly what great age, I could not yet verify), and also, that I had to have it. I handed it nonchalantly back to the assistant who placed it back on the bottom shelf, well out of the view of the general public. I strolled away from the counter, the very picture of a disinterested connoisseur while the excitement seethed beneath the surface and took up a vantage point behind a convenient majolica jardiniere to observe if other treasure hunters asked to see it…they did not.
My daughter had by this time had a good look about the rest of the “wares” and determined that most of it was tat, but we took our places in the sales room which was, to my dismay, teeming with buyers (and we are supposed to be in a hard times!).
And so it began.
Jewelry was first up. Gold hoarding must be the order of the day for anything gold started achieving ludicrous prices. Surprisingly any gold that contained tawdry items like diamonds sold for a lot less, and had I a spare four thousand I could have walked away with a diamond ring valued at fourteen grand.
I calmed myself while waiting by buying a rather charming Art Nouveau brooch with garnets, sapphires and seed pearls for a mere song.
Silver was next and to my my dismay, the competition was hot. A Georgian coffee pot achieved three thousand dollars, several early Victorian teapots fetched several thousand as well. Several salvers flew out of the room in a flurry of hot bidding and I began to feel that my “silver chalice – estimated value $100” was going to remain for me but a dream.
Throwing all caution to the wind, I leant over to my daughter and whispered into her ear.
“I don’t care! I am going to bid up to $300 for the chalice!”
My daughter was visibly shaken by this pronouncement. Never before had a Paris talked of spending such exorbitant sums on a single item. I could see my daughter calculating the reaction at home when my nearest and dearest discovered that the housekeeping budget had been squandered, but my heart said “buy”.
“A silver chalice” announced the auctioneer.
“I think I can see a lion on it but it is a bit light.” he added. (“well anything that had been possibly polished for 300 year would be a “bit light” wouldn’t it?” thought I)
“Do I hear $100?”
“$100 I have.”
We were seated at the front so I could not turn around to see who had dared to start the bidding.
I raised my hand.
“120, 140, 160, 180”
Each of my bids was instantly trumped. I craned my neck around to see who the bidder was…blast that old man with this little magnifying glass. He seemed to be the only other bidder.
A hush had fallen over the room except for the sound of my daughter nibbling nervously at a piece of lemon cake we had bought at the cake stall earlier. It tasted vaguely of garlic which was slightly off-putting…but I digress.
I raised my hand again.
I was silently agreeing with my inner hoarder that $400 was now my new limit.
“240” the auctioneer repeated. My heart started beating very fast.
“No more bids at two hundred and forty dollars?”
I resisted the temptation to cry out “hit your blasted gavel on the desk you pestilential man!”
There was a shuffling at the back of the room….
Did the gavel fall? Stay tuned for the final installment next Sunday.
Part 1 of this delightful saga can be found HERE