Australia's largest ever gold jewellery collection to go under the hammer

Author: Richard Brewster | Posted: 21st June, 2022

Following a protracted legal battle among family members, Australia’s biggest ever gold, silver and jewellery auction – featuring more than 10,000 items that belonged to gold merchant the late Peter Davis– will be held online each day from 10am Monday June 27 to Thursday June 30 through Melbourne-based Philips Auctions at 47 Glenferrie Road, Malvern.

Based in the Manchester Unity building in Collins Street, Peter – who died in 2017 aged 50 – ran a successful enterprise that incorporated many aspects of the jewellery business his great-grandfather William Davis established in 1880 on the same site.

Confusion reigned over Peter’s will, in which he left his entire estate to his parents, when they died about the same time. This resulted in a two-way tussle between Peter’s ex-partner and an aunt (who has since died), a sibling of one of the parents.

Victorian State Trustees were called in to resolve the matter and it was only when employees entered Peter’s office and were forced to crack and empty several of his locked safes that they realised the huge extent of his gold and silver collection.

Resolution has taken several years – hampered in no small measure by the advent of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic – and revenue from the sale is to be split evenly among the ex-partner and a surviving niece and nephew.

It took more than three months to catalogue the entire collection which, to enable an effective four-day auction, has been split into more than 1750 lots. This exhausting process involved x-raying, cleaning and photographing each item before they could be allocated a lot number.

The first day will see 500 lots, concentrating mainly on general jewellery, diamond rings, gold chains, earrings, bracelets and necklaces, go under the hammer.

Day two (lots 501-1000) will feature modern jewellery and gents watches, while day three (lots 1001-1395) will concentrate on modern and antique jewellery.

Day four (lots 1396-1752) will be devoted to decorative arts, bullion, coins, watches and carriage clocks. 

Buyer interest is already at peak levels from lot 1, a 15-carat double curb link bracelet, which in the first days of the auction has an online bid well above the $500-$1000 catalogue estimate, with lot 50 – a stylish textured gold and diamond set ribbon brooch – another strong attraction.

Another day one highlight is a quality Tiffany & Co. marquise shaped gold link bracelet (lot 264).

Day two features include a vintage ruby and diamond set gold floral brooch (lot 701), a solitaire 1.08-carat brilliant cut diamond ring (lot 711) that already has more than doubled its $500-$1000 catalogue estimate, while a yellow gold piaget possession ring (lot 783) should attract a large following.

A stunning Australian old cut diamond pearl starbust (lot 1208) from day three of the auction has tripled its auction estimate of $300-$600 in the opening stages and a double row old cut diamond ring (lot 1223) also is performing well.

Unusual is the Victorian sard onyx, pearl and enamel mourning brooch (lot 1338) and sentimental is the five stone diamond stone set ring made by William Davis (lot 1389).

For those buyers interested in history, an Australian gold sovereign dated 1866 from the Sydney Mint (lot 1528) – part of day four’s offerings – is worth a look.

And Rolex watches continue to be in strong demand. A stainless steel chronograph belonging to World War II Lieutenannt Larnach Walker with the Australian Infantry Forces 3rd Battalion and engraved with his service number (lot 1700) has already reached more than $20,000 in the bidding war – 10 times its higher catalogue estimate.

Likewise, lot 1704 – a stainless steel Rolex Automatic Explorer II – is on $22,000 against its $1000-$2000 estimate.

Viewing is 9am-5pm Tuesday June 21 to Friday June 24 and from 12pm-5pm Saturday June 25 and Sunday June 26.

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