‘Mind-Blowing’ Show in Miami

It didn’t take long for exhibitors and attendees to see that this year’s Miami Beach Antique Show would be a rousing success. Halfway into the first day, exhibitors were already upbeat about sales, and a sense of optimism ran through the show as more and more people crowded the aisles. By the end of the day, people were wandering the aisles with dazed expressions. “It sort of blows your mind,” said one.

The show—which this year numbered 920 exhibitors and is widely regarded by antique dealers and collectors as “the one to see”—ran from Jan. 30 to Feb. 3 at the Miami Beach Convention Center. It’s riding a wave of momentum: Last year saw attendance surge almost 20%, and this year attendance jumped another 16%. “I really think the economy is coming back strong,” says show manager Andrea Canady. “Over the past two years people were just looking and not buying, but this year they were pulling their wallets out and making purchases. Not one dealer came to me afterward and said they had a horrible show.”

The Miami show, which is open to the public, traditionally attracts many foreign buyers—Robert Lloyd Inc., New York, has three Irish buyers who come to the show every year—but the current state of the U.S. dollar was a particular draw this year. “There are people from all over the world here,” said Olivia Johnson of FJL/Louis Scholz Antique and Period Jewelry, Lexington, Ky. “Many of them are Europeans taking advantage of the price differential.” Joyce Chapman of Joyce Chapman Enterprises Ltd., Port Washington, N.Y., agreed. “Europeans, Japanese, Australians … they know what they’re doing here because of the dollar,” she said. “It’s like they’re getting everything on sale!”

The show encompasses both general antiques and jewelry, which many exhibitors view as a mutually beneficial situation. “It’s quite good because it brings in a lot of people who wouldn’t normally see our things,” said Malcolm Lindsay of Wimpole Antiques, London. It’s a big show (although as Joyce Chapman noted, “I’ve been to The JCK Show—this is overwhelming, but Vegas is deadly!”), and five-day passes are available so that attendees can make return trips. The range of goods on offer this year was staggering, and for jewelry lovers in particular, there were items to suit all tastes.

Gorgeous gems, marvelous metals. The predominately Victorian jewelry—many pieces in their original cases—offered by Wimpole Antiques drew crowds of buyers and browsers. Designer pieces also were well represented, with items by Cartier, Van Cleef and Arpels, and Tiffany lighting up other booths. Even some David Yurman jewelry appeared in the cases of Michele’s Antiques, Austin, Texas, because, as one of their salesmen explained, “If a name is big in general, it will sell on the secondary market.”

J. & S.S. DeYoung presented a vast array of gems and jewelry, including some particularly beautiful Kashmir sapphire rings, while Esperia Enterprises Inc., Rome, offered a large collection of antique micromosaics, most featuring desirable location themes.

“It’s the best show in the country, especially for jewelry,” said Angele Hobin of Hobin & Blunt, Los Angeles. She and Norma Blunt, who deal in estate jewelry, antiques, and period silver, have been doing the show for 10 years. They presented an eclectic mix of items, including a gem-encrusted two-piece Austro-Hungarian bracelet-and-brooch suite, circa 1870, of blue zircons and seed pearls set in silver.

Manuel Strauss of Manuel Strauss Inc., Los Angeles, showed a Russian brooch of gold and silver with an enormous center stone of deep purple amethyst. “I was shaking as I took it out,” said Strauss, describing his first viewing of the piece. “But then I saw that it had no marks.”

It seems the pendant had been bought in Russia and taken to Mexico, where, in the course of time, the owner decided she wanted to wear the piece as a brooch. A new back was attached, and in the process any original hallmarks were removed. Strauss believes that the quality of the piece is of the highest caliber—”It could have belonged to the Romanovs”—but with no marks, the piece has lost its identity and, he believes, at least five times its original value. “It’s a very sad story,” he said, shaking his head.

An enormous array of vintage wristwatches—including Franck Muller, Patek Philippe, Roger Dubuis, and Rolex—was on hand at the booth of Senzatempo, Miami, while FJL/Louis Scholz Antique and Period Jewelry displayed a detailed antique enameled Swiss key watch. “It’s essentially a pocket watch that lives on your wrist,” said FJL’s Elizabeth Pettus.

Buyers looking for fine antique silver weren’t disappointed, either. In the McHale Silverwares and China booth, an enormous amount of silver—Russian, coin, sterling, etc.—gleamed from every surface and shelf, with boxes of silverware and other items inviting a closer look. One standout piece was an opulent sterling silver Georg Jensen compote, dripping with clusters of silver grapes, circa 1918. The asking price was $17,900.

Another showstopper in the silver category was the James I set of seven Apostle spoons offered by Robert Lloyd. Apostle spoons are one of the most collectible early examples of spoons. Originating in the time of Henry VIII, they derive their name from the cast and chased depictions of apostles that grace their finials. Each saint is identifiable by the emblem he carries, and sets can either consist of 12 apostle spoons plus Christ as the Master spoon, or 11 apostles and the Master—but due to their age and rarity, it’s extremely difficult to find more than one spoon at a time. According to Miller’s Silver & Plate Antiques Checklist, only four sets of 12 and four sets of 13 have ever been recorded—so Lloyd’s set of seven was something to see. Bearing the maker’s mark of Daniel Cary, London, the group spans six apostles plus the Master and dates to 1606. Asking price was $145,000.

Items available in the general antiques category ranged from beautiful furniture to antique firearms, kimonos, even design books. Vintage Eyeware, New York, displayed hundreds of vintage eyeglass frames—some dating from as far back as the 1700s—while $3,800 would net you a small, gingerbread-trimmed Russian house made of thin, intricately carved ivory, circa 1860, from Trifles/Matthew Robinson of Bath, Maine.

And for those frightened of things that go bump in the night, Colin Strong, Naples, Fla., offered an antique Vampire Killing Kit—a fitted wooden box complete with crucifix, stakes, six small bottles of potions, a tiny pistol, and silver bullets. Boxes like these were marketed to nervous travelers in the late 1800s following the success of Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

With this year’s success, show officials are already looking ahead. “We’ve added 35 more booths for next year,” says Canady, “and we’re being very selective about who we accept. We want to ensure that we keep the quality up.”