by Patrick Kapty
The market for 20th century silver jewelry and objects is a bird of many-colored plumage, including within it's feathers such diverse styles as Art Nouveau and Organic 1970s modernism to name just a couple. Though we will not be able to cover all these areas in minute precision, hopefully this report will be able to give the reader an idea of general market trends. However, it must be borne in mind that all details of sales etc are indicative of the moment, the sellers, the buyers, and the place of the sale, and not necessarily reproducible again under different circumstances.
By all reports, the market for 20th century silver is steady and holding it's own, with some areas doing better than expected at auctions and shows, while other areas are not doing quite as well as expected. Big name designers or artists i.e. Jensen, Spratling, Sam Kramer, etc., are all meeting expectations or bettering them, while most lesser-known or simply lesser-esteemed designer/artists are achieving lesser values or not selling at all. This is good news as it seems to indicate that at long last after the tragic events of last September 11 that our market is finally back to normal, or almost.
A recent sale (12/11/01) at Skinners in Boston showed mixed results for 20th century silver. While the Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts items generally went at or below the low estimate, mid-century items, particularly the work of Sam Kramer, generally did much better, though not all items sold. Also, one item by the workshop of Hans Hansen, Denmark, sold for the upper estimate, once again indicating that the well-known and quality items will do well in our present market. Incidentally, vintage Hansen jewelry and objects seem to be getting a lot more interest at this time most probably due to their excellent craftsmanship, great design, and the sky-rocketing of anything by Jensen thus making the Hansen pieces seem much undervalued in comparison.
I'm not sure how indicative results on eBay are of the market in general, but a couple of hours spent perusing completed auctions seems to bear out the above hypothesis i.e. big names are doing well. Overall though it seems the internet auction market has dwindled appreciably over the last couple years. Most of the intense internet auction shoppers of my acquaintance are spending a very small fraction of their time shopping eBay and other online auctions, and the 'live' marketplace seems to be making a big comeback. I'm pretty sure that this is the 'rebound effect' and that, given time, both markets will stabilize in relation to each other.
With the spring show and auction schedule about the commence, we'll see in a couple of months if this trend will continue, but at the present all indicators seem to point to renewed confidence, and spending, in our small fraction of the arts/antique marketplace.