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The Felicia Michalski Collection of Fine & Costume Jewelry goes up for bid at Turner Auctions + Appraisals
Pair of turquoise, diamond and 18k gold earrings. Two round brilliant-cut diamonds weighing together approximately 0.40 ct. Estimate: $800-1,200.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA.- Turner Auctions + Appraisals is pleased to feature the Felicia Michalski Collection of Fine & Costume Jewelry on Sunday, February 18. Presenting 140 lots acquired over six decades, the sale offers fine jewelry for ladies, including necklaces, bracelets, rings, brooches, pendants and wristwatches. Most are crafted of gold, white gold, platinum or silver, with precious stones and embellishments such as diamonds, rubies, sapphires, amethyst, opal, jade, turquoise, coral, cultured pearls, cameos and French bloodstone.

There is also a vast range of antique and vintage costume jewelry from the Anita Hellman Collection. The diverse selection features large groupings of necklaces; brooches; belt and shoe buckles; antique miniature portraits and scenes; Mickey Mouse, pocket and fob watches; pocketknives; gentlemen’s accessories; and designer items from Chanel, Renoir, Dior and others.

Turner Auctions + Appraisals begins its online auction on Sunday, February 18, 2018, at 10:30 am PST; items in the sale are available for preview and bidding now. The online auction will be featured live on four platforms: LiveAuctioneers, Invaluable, eBay and Turner Auctions + Appraisals’ free mobile app, which can be downloaded from the App Store or Google Apps ("Turner Auctions"). All are easily accessed through ‘Upcoming Auctions’ at the company’s website.

The life of Felicia Michalski reads like a novel, particularly during the war years. Born in Gostynin, Poland, in 1919, she is a survivor of the Holocaust – in fact, with her brother, they are the sole survivors of her family and her husband’s family as well.

In her late teens, singing in social clubs as an entertainer, Felicia met Joseph Michalski, a young soldier seven years her senior, who, entranced by her sparkle and charm, vowed on the first day they met to marry her. But then it was not to be. In 1939 when she was 19, Felicia left Poland when the Nazis took control of Gostynin and its men were taken to concentration camps – which at the time were said by the Nazis to be places of refuge and protection. Joseph, her betrothed, was taken prisoner of war by the Russians and sent to the Ukraine. In 1940, searching for he fiancé, Felicia and her brother Kuba were captured by the Russians and sent to Siberia as slave labor to cut down trees. There, after falling in ice water, she developed gangrene and almost had both legs amputated. Instead, adamantly screaming to her captors “you’re not taking my legs!,” she somehow healed herself.

Subsequently, because the Russians needed the camps, its prisoners, including Felicia, were released. She fled with others, about 100 of them, leading the effort to quickly build two log rafts, then setting off south on Siberia’s rivers toward warmer climes. After a harrowing two-week voyage where many people died, they arrived in Kazakhstan. Along the way, she developed typhus, but was nursed back to health from near-death by Joseph Michalski, with whom she had miraculously reconnected in Kazakhstan. The young couple married there in 1942 and had two sons, Jerry and Henry, in 1943 and 1945, respectively.

In 1946, the family was sent to a displaced persons camp in Bavaria set up by the Allies. Then, while they were originally planning to go to Palestine, the opportunity arose to go to the United States instead. And so, the Michalski family, arriving aboard the USS General C. H. Muir, landed in New York in August 1949. But despite the many trials and tribulations of the previous decade, the Michalskis’ difficulties were not yet over. Although they were finally safe from the tragedies of war, they spoke no English, Joe could not find work, and they had two young children to feed. In light of this situation, they decided to go west, inspired by the American Dream and hoping for more opportunities.

Indeed, there is San Francisco, life gradually fell into place. Joe found a job as a sheet metal worker, thrilled when a pay raise gave him $1.00 per hour. Felicia happily assumed the 1950s role of a wife and mother, cooking, cleaning, running the household, and taking care of the children. In 1952, George was born and the Michalskis purchased a home – a great source of pride since they had just gotten off the boat in 1949! Although the family did not have much money then, with no extras for restaurants or new store-bought clothes, funds were always found for education, as a way for the family to better themselves and their situation. (For example, one-third of the family income went for piano lessons for George, who was believed to be a child prodigy. In fact, George has toured the world as a concert pianist, is a noted composer and producer, and has earned numerous awards.)

Living in California after the war, Felicia developed a serious collecting passion that lasted over 60 years. Once her family’s needs were well taken care of, Felicia went shopping. She began first at rummage sales, church bazaars, and estate sales, then progressed over time to major Bay Area antique shows and dealers, with whom she made friends. Later, when life became easier, she and Joe also picked up small items during their frequent international travels. Unlike other collectors, she became interested in antiques after the war; when others wanted mid-century modern, Mrs. Michalski picked up beautiful old pieces for a song. While Felicia’s connoisseurship was entirely self-taught, experts and museum curators valued and often sought her opinion.

According to her son Henry, Mrs. Michalski was known for her exceptional eye, a natural love of beauty, and an unrelenting desire to acquire. Full of energy and drive, she was a very stylish woman who dressed to the hilt. While jewelry was her favorite, she collected all kinds of items – paintings, pottery, furniture, porcelain dogs, beer steins, art glass and much more. “And not just one of them – hundreds,” said Henry, “If it was beautiful, she was interested.” She acquired San Francisco real estate, too, and has several homes to house her vast array of acquisitions, many of them museum-quality.

Joe was a frequent partner in these hunts for treasure and investments. Together they would go to upscale Pacific Heights neighborhoods or church bazaars, where they would be first in line to choose the finest things. Theirs was a complementary and successful partnership: Felicia was the entrepreneur and mover; Joe was the fixer and doer, repainting and refurbishing the antiques and real estate. While her plan was to open an antique store, it was not to be – Joe, finally desiring simplicity and envisioning yet more tasks for him, eventually put his foot down on the idea.

Reflecting on his mother’s passion to acquire, Henry says that perhaps, having lived through so much sadness, death and ugliness early in her life, his mother unwittingly found beautiful inanimate objects as a way to replace tragedy and loss. Surrounded by her beloved family and the treasured possessions that also became like family, she found joy and pleasure through the years.

Today, at age 98, Mrs. Michalski has moved to assisted living, so it is time to pass along many of the beautiful objects from her homes. While Henry and his family will keep certain treasures as a way to honor his mother’s legacy, fortunate others will now have the opportunity to benefit from Mrs. Michalski’s collecting passion and natural eye for beauty.

Here are some highlights of the upcoming sale on February 18:

Lot 92: Antique miniature portrait and scenic jewelry & objects. Collection includes 33 assorted pieces. Estimate: $100-200.

Lot 30: Three carved coral cameo brooch/pendants. Set in 14k and 10k gold frames; lengths: 2 in. Estimate: $1,200-1,500.

Lot 79: Collection of coral, silver and metal jewelry. 18 pieces of assorted jewelry. Estimate: $150-250.

Lot 11: Diamond, half pearl, enamel, 14k gold clip brooch, ARK. Retro clip-brooch centering a Victorian jewelry piece set with half-pearls and rose-cut diamonds; gross weight approximately 41.5 g; diameter: 2 ¾ in. Estimate: $1,000-1,500.

Lot 34: Turquoise and 14k gold jewelry suite. Comprising a necklace, bracelet and pair of earrings; lengths: 15 1/2, 7 and 1 ½ in. Estimate: $1,500-1,800.

Lot 3: Cultured pearl, diamond, 18k bicolor gold bouquet brooch. Italy; the bouquet brooch featuring 3 golden and white colored button-shaped cultured pearls measuring approximately 8-9.0 mm, with numerous rose-cut diamonds, weighing in total an estimated 3.50 cts; gross weight approximately: 34.7 g; length: 3 in. Estimate: $1,800-2,200. (

Lot 7: Opal, diamond and 14k gold ring. Pear-shaped opal measuring approximately 20.7 x 12.7 mm; estimated total diamond weight: 1.00 ct. Estimate: $800-1,200.

Lot 16: French bloodstone and 14k gold link bracelet. Gross weight approximately 58.4 g; length: 7 in., width: 1 in. Estimate: $800-1,200.

Lot 24: Jade and high karat gold pendant and chain. Gross weight approximately 46.4 g; length: 20 in. Estimate: $1,400-1,600.

Lot 29: High karat and 18k gold coin motif bracelet. Weighing approximately 55.5 g; length: 7 ¼ in. Estimate: $2,000-3,000.

Lot 62: Pair of turquoise, diamond and 18k gold earrings. Two round brilliant-cut diamonds weighing together approximately 0.40 ct. Estimate: $800-1,200.

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