Inventory Records and Provenance Feed

An Astounding Jewelry Discovery

One year ago the Professional Development Seminar for the 2014 SNAG Conference focused on the importance of documenting your work, Inventory Records: Documentation and Provenance along with your maker's mark. History can have a short memory and recently this was brought to my attention in a very surprising and astounding jewelry discovery!

In 2006 my parents bought this wonderful necklace and earrings for me!
My parents knew I would like the colorful necklace and big earrings -- just my style. In addition, I collect vintage acrylic jewelry and lamps so they knew they had found something that would fit my tastes perfectly.   For the past nine years, the only thing that I knew about the necklace and earrings was that my parents bought it in Florida at some antique or consignment shop.

Fast forward to the recent 2015 SNAG Conference in Boston.  On the final night I decided to wear the necklace and earrings for the evening activities. As you can imagine, many people wear fantastic jewelry to a finale event for the Society of North American Goldsmiths. 

It was then that my friend Marjorie Schick identified the necklace as the work of Caroline Broadhead (one of my jewelry & installation heroes).  I was stunned. I had no idea.  Marjorie recalled that in the 1980's Broadhead set up a business in London with Nuala Jamison "making buttons and acrylic jewelry for Jean Muir and other dress designers." 


Marjorie and I immediately looked carefully at the necklace and earrings in better light but found no maker marks.  We went to a computer to research further and promptly found these similar earrings (left) from the Crafts Council Collection Online with attribution to Nuala Jamison and Caroline Broadhead for C&N Buttons & Jewellery Production circa 1992. 

Caroline-Broadhead-Nuala-Jamison-VZ-cu2Further research also discovered this necklace by Nuala Jamison and Caroline Broadhead at a Von Zezcchwitz auction in 2009.


How did Marjorie Schick know all of this information? I've worn the necklace at several other SNAG conferences and no one said anything before. Marjorie glowed with enthusiasm as she recounted her experience.  She said, "I made trips to the UK and Holland, etc. during the 1980's and spent at least two sabbaticals and a summer in London so I was meeting a lot of people AND buying a few pieces.  I enrolled at the Sir John Cass Faculty of Art, Architecture and Design and later was artist-in-residence there as well as at Middlesex University and both schools provided the opportunity to meet more artists.  I love that time period when the “New Jewelry” was happening and feel that I am fairly knowledgeable about it --- having lived it and having been a part of it." 

This has been an exciting discovery. I've been bursting to share this jewelry tale. To think that I own a necklace and earrings by Caroline Broadhead is just wonderful. I have always loved wearing this jewelry, but now appreciate it with more insight and knowledge. 

Lessons learned for everyone:

  • Put your maker mark on all your work, some how, some way, so that your jewelry can tell a story even if you aren't there.
  • Be on the look out for fabulous necklaces by your jewelry hero. Some day you may find an example at a flea market on the ground (like this story about a Calder necklace) or at a consignment shop.
  • Trust your instincts and buy fabulous jewelry for $15, $50, or if you can afford it, $5,000. Don't wait. Your eye for jewelry may be a discovery.  
  • Wear your jewelry.
  • Be knowledgeable about your fields of interest. 
  • Conferences can offer wonderful surprises (keep this in mind when wondering if it is worth going).
  • Speak with your own voice with everything you make.  

Sculpture-to-Wear-Marjorie-SchickSculpture to Wear: The Jewelry of Marjorie Schick

This is a fabulous book about jewelry as sculpture you won't see any where else. Beautiful photos, and a complete Oeuvre Catalog clearly demonstrates the vision of this unique maker Marjorie Schick. Essay by Tacey Rosolowski.

If you love color or jewelry then this book is a must! Ask your library to add it to their collection. Marjorie does not have a website and only a fraction of her work is on the web. 

Learn to keep Inventory Records: Documentation and Provenance of your work.

MORE POSTS about Inventory Records: Documentation and Provenance can be found here.

TAKE A MOMENT to study the jewelry and installations of Caroline Broadhead.


Without Photos, Does My Art Even Exist?

Recently I unpacked an old piece of work knowing it had never been photographed.  Beautiful work that I loved -- and had shown in my own living room.  But the work was never photographed ... and usually sat in it's box in a closet.  

To my dismay and a wrenching insight, I realized that without photos, how would a collector, gallery, or exhibition ever know of their existence.  In effect, outside my own memory, the work did not exist.  


If an artwork isn't photographed nor documented, and no one sees it, does it exist in the age of information?  

With no photos the work can't be shown on my website. I can't sell the work or tempt a collector without photos.

Without photos, if damaged, I can't even make an insurance claim.  I am usually so cautious that even if work is being photographed for an exhibition, I have photos taken before it is shipped.


It turns my world upside down to think that for 11 years, these chocolate cups just sat in a box.

Chocolate Godiva Cups from recycled tin cans in blue and gold by Harriete Estel Berman

Then one step further.  Professional quality photographs are necessary, if you want the photos to represent the quality of your work. 

Whitman's Chocolate Cup constructed from recycled tin cans in light powder blue, and gold by Harriete Estel Berman

If you have not documented the work with your Inventory Record,
then it is not part of your oeuvre. Yet, we want to be remembered for our work! 

Documentation is everything in the age of information.

Chocolate Cups—Whitman’s & Godiva © 2003 Harriete Estel Berman
Two chocolate cups constructed using recycled tin cans from chocolate candy products. The cups are filled with luscious "hot chocolate" made from polyester resin. Additional materials include:  10k gold and aluminum rivets, brass and stainless steel screws.

Whitman’s Chocolate Cup: 6” height x 4.5” diameter base x 4.75” width at top
Godiva Chocolate Cup: 6” height x 5 5/8” diameter base x 3.75” width at top

Retail Price for each cup: $985
Photo Credit: Philip Cohen 2015


RESOURCES from the Professional Guidelines

Guide to Quality Photographic Images

Inventory Record: Documentation and Provenance  

Working with Digital Images Effectively

Appraisers Approach to Appraising Value

Worry About Worry Beads Coming Undone by Harriete Estel BermanNot too long ago I received an email from an art appraiser of "modern and contemporary design." The appraiser was contacting me to discuss the value of an artwork that I made in 1997, which sold shortly after. Now the collector is donating the work to a major museum!

Donation of my artwork by a private collector to a museum collection is an amazing opportunity. It aligns with my professional goals, i.e. one way for my work to enter a major museum.

1 Worry Bead by Harriete Estel Berman from recyled tin cans 72But the appraisal presents a challenging situation - how to establish "current value" for my work? This is especially difficult when the artwork is one-of-a-kind. There is nothing within my oeuvre that is like it. Since I don't have a gallery representing my work, the appraiser contacted me directly. I was kind of intimidated.  Was I just supposed to grab a number out of the air?

This topic and related issues will be part of the upcoming Professional Development Seminar in 2014.  In the meantime,  I'd like to share the experience so that others can learn and perhaps raise good questions. Stay tuned for more information.

The appraisers letter is copied below. I will be as transparent as possible, but discretion shall prevail as well (names and dollars have been removed) .


"Dear Ms. Berman,
I am a New York-based design and decorative arts appraiser and I'm currently appraising a piece of your work, Worry About Worry Beads Coming Undone (1997), for museum donation.
Given that you often sell directly to clients, I hoped you might be willing to provide your thoughts as to the current market value of the piece. It would be especially helpful if there are recent comparable sales, although I recognize this might be difficult. I have attached images of the necklace for your review.

The details are as follows:
Harriete Estel Berman (USA)
Worry About Worry Beads Coming Undone, Necklace, 1997
Printed tin, stainless steel
Bead Diameter: 3”; Cable coil length: 48”
3 ½” x 19 ½” x 17 ¼”
Thank you for your willingness to assist with this. I look forward to hearing back at your convenience.
Best regards,
(the appraisers name here)"
Worrying Upon Worry Coming Undone Worry Beads in a box from the collector waiting to be appraised. Worrying Upon Worry Beads Coming Undone by Harriete Estel Berman donated to a museum collection waiting appraisel


ASK-red-yellowI was certainly flattered but her request opened some important issues.  Consequently, my return email asked if we could have a phone conversation.  For a variety of reasons, I needed to learn more about where she was coming from as an appraiser. An email could not possibly cover the complexity of an appropriate answer. It would be quite informative to learn how she usually determined the value of an artwork as an appraiser. What information should be considered? How could a single number reflect past events and present environment.  Such a complex situation! This will be the topic of the next post.

There was also the super amazing serendipity of the request since the theme of the upcoming Professional Development Seminar in 2014 had recently been chosen as "Collectors, Collections and YOU." This PDS will cover the topic of establishing value for your artwork, the secondary market, and getting your work into museum collections.

In my opening conversation with the appraiser I asked if it would be OK to share our discussion about the relevant issues of appraisal valuation on ASK Harriete.  She agreed if discretion could be observed.

So I will reveal as much as I can in a series of posts.


Values With and Without a Maker's Mark

Is this jewelry worth $5,000?
                             or $50,000?


It depends.   At least that is the opinion of the jewelry appraiser on Antiques Road.

Originally these were cuff links.  The current owners story was that they were Fabergé given as a gift from the Czar Nicholas II. Subsequently they were converted to earrings, and the original maker mark was removed along with the cuff link fixture on the back. 

As earrings they are worth an estimated $5,000 to $7,000.

The appraiser continues: "If they were converted back to cuff links, it wouldn't be original condition, of course, as cuff links...but they would be closer to their original condition. They would probably be worth $12,000 to $15,000."

If the inventory number on the back of the jewelry is confirmed to be a pair of Faberge cufflinks owned by Czar Nicholas II, "as Fabergé cuff links-- even converted-- in a retail setting, they would probably be sold for $40,000 to $50,000."

The significant issues here are condition, maker's mark of Fabergé, and provenance.

Condition counts. Converting the cuff links to earrings affects the condition; usually to the negative.  The general rule is that a preference for original condition brings top dollar.

The maker's mark confirms that these are genuine Fabergé, not simply in the style of Fabergé or another Russian jewelry maker.

Provenance is the documented history. While the participant on Antiques Roadshow had a great story, she had nothing in writing. This is why the appraiser says, "Czar Nicholas II kept a little book of his own collection of cuff links, and we could compare it to that to see if anything like that [inventory number on the back] appears [in the records of Fabergé or the Czar's records].

While few of us are as famous as Faberge (at least not yet), we can keep great inventory records to document our work for history.

The Professional Guidelines has a document, Inventory Records: Documentation and Provenance that you can use as a model for your records. The sample Inventory Record Form can be downloaded and printed for your convenience. Use this form to document important information about your work. It is available as a PDF suitable for printing or Excel.

Even if you do production, keep records for each style and the number produced.

Always mark your work. These two steps may affect the value of your work now or in the future.

Identity of the Maker Establishes Value - from $15 to $300,000

Is your maker mark on your work?

The identity of the maker can raise the price from $15. to $267,750.

In this amazing story a "rare piece of jewelry plucked from a flea market" was auctioned at Christie's for an estimated $200,000- $300,000.
Calder Necklace spiralWhat are the issues here?

First, the person who found it at the flea market had to appreciate it's dynamic, perhaps even commanding  appearance in the context of a flea market... the "guy had it in a box on the ground,”

Next: she sees the Calder jewelry exhibition at the Philadelphia Art Museum and becomes informed, a great reason to study and learn about the decorative arts.

But the most significant issue, the one that changes a $15 necklace found at a flea market into a mind blowing value, is that it had to be authenticated by the Calder Foundation in New York. "Part of the mission of the Calder Foundation is to protect the Artist’s legacy. Many existing works are often misattributed to Alexander Calder." (Examples of Calder Jewelry can be found here.)

The foundation discovered that the necklace was indeed an authentic Calder originally exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in 1943.

More recently, Christies' auctioned the necklace on September 26, 2013.  The price realized for the Calder Necklace = $267,750

Issues to consider:

  • Maker marks or signature for your art or craft
  • Importance of provenance
  • Materials do not equal value
  • Impact of auction house on price

We can learn a lot from this example.
AND I have more to come in future posts.


Slide show of jewelry by Calder on The New York Times Website.

Information about the Calder Jewelry exhibition at the Philadelphia Art Museum. (I saw the show at the Philadelphia Art Museum in 2008. It was small but amazing.)

Fabulous images of Calder's stabiles and mobiles along with other work can be found on ARTSY. There is also an interview with his grand-son.

Here is a link to another maker mark example. In this segment from Antiques Roadshow,  there was a deliberate effort to fake the maker's mark.  You can watch the video segment here.