Staring at the master appraiser as he said those words, the world seemed to stand still. She swung wildly from disbelief to astonishment, briefly feeling every other emotion in between. And just when she thought she had regained her composure, the tears came. Waiting for her to recover before he continued to tell her about her sentimental family heirloom, the appraiser waited silently. She would remember this as the day her life changed forever.
The British version of the popular reality show ‘Antiques Roadshow’ had arrived in town and Connie was waiting among the thousands of other hopefuls who had brought their trinkets and treasures to be evaluated by an expert. Although a lucky few would find out that their junk wasn’t entirely worthless, most would have their dreams shattered.
Connie resolved that whatever the appraiser said, the heirloom would always be priceless to her. Handed down from her mother-in-law, she often wondered if there had been more to the bracelet than met the eye. Nevertheless, it was a pretty piece and it had seen its share of parties in its day – coming out from its box whenever there was a Great Gatsby-themed fancy dress or Roaring Twenties soiree.
Connie had never seen the piece before she had inherited it unexpectedly – it arrived in a plain box with no certification. She and her mother-in-law had been close, so when she received the gaudy trinket she had loved it for what it was – a gift and memento to remember her by. No one really knew if it was valuable. But one day, she noticed something strange.
After Connie’s mother-in-law had passed away, she felt honored to have been bestowed such an exquisite piece of jewelry – even if it was something she’d never wear. She knew it was silly, but she felt that it brought them closer together in some way. But it was only years later that she took the bracelet out again and noticed something on one of the bright circular crystals.
Tilting the bracelet upward and into the light, Connie saw that there was a sticky blemish on the polished surface – perhaps a spill of some kind that had accumulated a fine layer of dust. She retrieved a soft cloth and began to polish it carefully, but the sticky substance wouldn’t budge. Lifting the bracelet up to her mouth, she breathed on it. Her warm breath fogged the crystal up like glass, but then something strange happened.
Instead of the fog on the crystal imparting enough moisture for Connie to loosen the stain, it dissipated almost immediately. That’s odd… Connie thought. Then, her heart started to beat double-time. Slightly frightened of what she held in her hand, she rushed to put it back in its box. That’s when she began to suspect that the piece was more than costume jewelry — but she would only know the mind-blowing truth much later.
Now, waiting in line for an appraiser to evaluate the piece, Connie’s mind began to race. She held the bracelet to her chest protectively, imagining if it somehow got damaged in the human crush… or worse, lost or stolen. She only prayed that the wait wouldn’t be long. Suddenly, she was ushered to the front, where master appraiser Geoffrey Munn was waiting for her. It was now or never.
Geoffrey begins by asking Connie exactly what she knows about the piece, but unlike the other visitors, her knowledge is very limited. She shakily begins to explain that she inherited it from her mother-in-law. “It was bought for her by her husband who may have got it in an auction. He traveled a lot around the world so he may have purchased it anywhere on his travels,” Connie says nervously.
Geoffrey nods his head and closes his eyes while he listens to Connie carefully, waiting for her to finish before saying: “Well I have no idea about the age of everybody in the family, but I think there is another ghost here.” He pauses for a few moments to let Connie take his enigmatic words in before continuing.
“And I think this is a ghost of a marvelous lady living in the Art Deco style with a silk dress – perhaps with a geometric pattern to it — shot with green and blue,” Geoffrey explains as if enlivened by his vision into a world long forgotten. Connie and the audience lean closer, on tenterhooks. “It’s not an investment,” he continues gently as Connie’s heart drops.
“…it is simply part of the most astonishing arrangements, really, of the last gasps of luxury at that level. We never saw it again, really, after the Second World War,” he says, with a glint in his eye and a wry smile. “This was bought for sheer pleasure to wear at some fantastic reception in Paris in 1927.”
Then, Geoffrey’s flight of fancy as to who wore the beautiful piece comes to an end, and he smiles. “And we don’t know this ghost. This may be the only evidence we can ever hope to call her back.” Pulled out of his reverie, Geoffrey levels his expert opinion without changing his tone – which makes the revelation even more astounding to all who hear it.
“It’s platinum,” he begins, picking up the pace. “And it’s set with… um… all manner of different cuts of diamonds, mainly brilliants, and square cut diamonds here.” Connie gasps in disbelief. “And we can give this the label that is often misused – of being Art Deco — and implies it is made between 1927 and the early 1930s.” Then he points to the telltale details.
The exuberant style of Art Deco before the Great Depression embodied the opulent spirit of the time. Geometric designs were inspired by the Cubism movement and then combined with the finest luxury materials and craftsmanship – and practicality was put aside for the most expensive materials. Connie never realized that she held an exquisite piece from the era… but just how much was it worth?
“The reason we can see this – and you have to trust me on this – is there are little references, not only to geometry but also to Chinese works of art. This is a progression of design that we see of the greatest jewelry houses of the world.” Before the big reveal, he declared that the piece wasn’t made by Cartier, Van Cleef and Arpels, or Boucheron – in fact, he was unable to tell who the original designer had been. Connie held her breath, but nothing could have prepared her for what he said next.
“We can see it is of the finest possible quality. And I’m sure if you wanted to buy it in any distinguished jewelry shop anywhere in the world, you would have to pay £150,000.” The audience lets out a sound of pure amazement, and Connie begins to cry in disbelief. The bracelet she had thought was just costume jewelry a few weeks earlier was actually a six-figure windfall – just under $200,000, to be precise.
After regaining some of her composure, Connie says “I could buy a Bentley now,” her voice breaking as she reaches up to wipe away her tears. “You could…” Geoffrey replies. But, as if Connie’s emotions are contagious, Geoffrey’s voice wavers a little too as he fights back tears. He lets out a little giggle, exposing a soft side for everyone to see. He is truly happy for Connie. “You’ve set me off now…” he says, fanning his face.
Connie’s story just goes to show that you never know what priceless items may be lying in your house collecting dust. And people can’t get enough of the cash-in-the-attic stories of trash actually turning out to be treasure. The video of Connie’s priceless reaction to finding out that her heirloom was so valuable has garnered a staggering 23,655 views on Youtube.
Imagine inheriting a family heirloom worth six-figures… what would you do? Would you be reluctant to give up a sentimental piece passed on by a beloved family member? Or would you sell it without hesitation? Perhaps you’d use it to square off your mortgage or add to your kids’ college fund? Next time you’re wondering about that old item in your house, maybe you should get it appraised.