Collaborative auction for Melbourne jewellery lovers

Author: Richard Brewster | Posted: 13th August, 2019

Who would have thought that a man who cut his teeth as a child on the rugby field (including playing for Melbourne’s Scotch College, Victoria and as an Australian junior) then won a gridiron football scholarship to Arizona State College would end up as one of Australia’s leading jewellery experts.

Now 39, Robert Haigh’s expertise will be on show at E.J. Ainger’s from 6pm Monday August 19 when Australian Fine Assets, of which he is chief executive officer, curates a jewellery auction comprising an eclectic mix of modern, vintage and antique jewellery with estimates ranging from $500 to $50,000.

Initiated by Australian Fine Assets, it is the company’s first collaborative jewellery sale with an auction house and involves curating the auction (including consigning, cataloguing and photographing all the items), and will be held in Ainger’s rooms at 433 Bridge Road, Richmond.

Some of the more intriguing pieces include a Bvlgari men’s wristwatch (lot 50 – catalogue estimate $14,000-$18,000), an 18-carat white and yellow gold diamond ring (lot 48 - $12,000-$15,000), and a pair of mother of pearl and black jade Tiffany cufflinks (lot 15 - $1000-$1500).

Other jewellery bound to attract the attention of auction goers includes an 18-carat white and yellow gold diamond and emerald ring (lot 239 - $5000-$6000), lot 187 – an 18-carat yellow and white gold diamond and ruby ring ($4000-$5000) – and an emerald and diamond bracelet (lot 120 - $4000-$6000).

After his gridiron days ended in 2002, Robert returned to Australia and spotted an ad in The Age newspaper inviting applicants to become an auctioneer at Leonard Joel.

He had always loved collecting and selling things at a profit. As a child, Robert frequented markets to buy then sell goods for more than he paid for them, or collect lost golf balls on golf courses with a similar purpose in mind, so the invitation immediately appealed.

He started modestly at Leonard Joel, one of Melbourne’s oldest auction houses, in the furniture department before casting an envious eye on jewellery.

“I completed a short gemmology course before undertaking longer studies over six years in diamond technology and grading and other aspects of the qualification,” he said.

In 2010, Robert became manager and senior jewellery specialist at Leonard Joel, a position he held for seven years, and in 2012 was elected vice-president of the National Council of Jewellery Valuers (Victorian Division).

The decision to establish Australian Fine Assets followed an approach from a financier who also owns a Western Australian winery.

“In the first six months of business we sold a 54-carat Burmese sapphire and set about  supplying antique and modern jewellery to auctioneers throughout Australia,” Robert said.

If this collaborative jewellery sale is a success, it could become a regular feature on Australia’s auction calendar.

“This auction includes engagement rings and other items ideal for anniversaries, birthdays and other special occasions,” Robert said. 

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