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Our friends Lyon & Turnbull, Scotland’s oldest fine art and antiques auctioneers, kindly hosted an event for our guests at their London gallery for a private showing of their exquisite jewellery, watches and Scottish works of art prior to their auction held the next day.
As well as admiring the dazzling display, we all enjoyed hearing a bit more about the work and how to buy at auction from their experts.

As well as the antique and modern jewellery which included several exceptional diamond pieces from private collections across the UK, we were treated to works of Scottish art spanning the last 200 years. There was 18th century portraiture by Sir Henry Raeburn, alongside work of the famed Scottish Colourists Peploe and Fergusson as well as contemporary stars Alan Davie and Stephen Conroy.

Buying from an auction is an exciting experience, full of buzz, drama and fun.  Auctions might seem intimidating to those not in the know, so here are some top tips from the Lyon & Turnball senior specialists and auctioneers Kate Flitcroft, Jewellery & Silver, and Charlotte Riordan, Scottish Paintings.  

Take a Look

Fully illustrated auction catalogues are available online and in print around a month before the main event.  With images of every lot, detailed descriptions and estimated prices, catalogues are a great place to start.   
The best way to make sure something is right for you is to go and see it! Viewings happens a few days prior to an auction and are open to everyone.  Being able to both see and try on the jewellery that has caught your eye in the catalogue is a great way to build confidence in your purchase
All auctions are open and free to attend – come along to soak up the atmosphere, watch others bidding, and see the auctioneer in action.  You don’t need to ask permission; just walk in as though it were a shop and have a look round. 
Speak to a Specialist
Auction specialists are on hand to help at all viewings and by phone and email.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions about pieces you might be interested in or buying at auction in general.  If you see something you like in the catalogue but can't make it in person, you can always request extra photos (perhaps modelled by a member of staff with similar features), condition reports and see copies of relevant gemological certifications.
Key things to look for
Look for quality, condition and provenance. You will be amazed how much you learn by viewing auctions and speaking to specialists. Comparing various lots in an auction can help you develop an eye for quality.  For example, ask to view two or three diamonds side-by-side.  Over time, this will build your visual memory for assessing diamond colour (one of the all-important four ‘C’s).
Try to buy the best level of quality you can, whether it be in jewellery, works of art or paintings.  Look for the best examples from the key periods of an artist’s work where possible, especially if that artist or maker was very prolific.
Spotting the potential of an object, for example a painting, is a key part of a specialist’s expertise, and something that he/she is more than happy to share with you. For example, a few small fixes, such as an inexpensive clean by a conservator, may dramatically transform what at an initial look may seem like a tired piece. Things like dirt, minor conservation issues or poor framing can put off auction buyers with less imagination, or who don’t have a chat with the specialists about the piece’s potential.
The provenance of an item can make all the difference to the level of interest it receives at auction – works with a history, intriguing backstory or from a good collection can do very well.  For instance, the early portrait by Scottish artist Allan Ramsay on show here has been in the same family since it was commissioned, so has a traceable lineage; it is published in the Ramsay catalogue raisonnĂ©; and is totally fresh to market.
The Golden Rule
The golden rule is - if you love it, you will not regret buying it at auction, and will get many, many years of satisfaction from your purchase. If you decide to sell, and make a profit, that’s a bonus!

About Lyon & Turnbull 
Operating since 1826, Lyon & Turnbull are Scotland’s oldest fine art and antiques auctioneers.   The company’s galleries in London and Glasgow complement the historic Georgian headquarters and main saleroom in Edinburgh. Hosting nearly 30 specialist auctions per year across the UK there is always something to see at Lyon & Turnbull: from jewellery and watches to fine furniture; traditional British and European art to Modern & Contemporary stars; European decorative arts and design to fine Asian art from China and Japan. www.lyonandturnbull.com  


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