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Estimated £50 million worth of unwanted jewellery sitting in Britain's homes
An art deco emerald, pearl and diamond bracelet. Photo: Bonhams.

LONDON.- A treasure trove of at least £50 million worth of unwanted jewellery is gathering dust in Britain’s homes and attics, according to new research.

Figures from Bonhams suggest millions of pounds worth of earrings, necklaces, bracelets and other expensive pieces are simply forgotten, stashed on top of wardrobes or in bedside drawers, as a result of changing tastes.

The leading international auction house is inviting people to bring their unwanted jewellery in for a free valuation as part of its nationwide Jewellery in June campaign – and has highlighted details of its most incredible ‘finds’.

Bonhams used the data from the past five years of June sales to create a jewellery hot-spot map, showing some of its most lucrative sales as a result of the campaign. While some jewellery is deliberately squirreled away for a rainy day, many more items are simply lost and forgotten among general household clutter, or are passed down through the generations without their true value being realised, rarely worn and left to gather dust.

With prices rising, and increasing numbers of investors turning away from stocks and shares to more tangible commodities such as diamonds, gem stones and historically significant pieces, the figures suggest people should pay more heed to the value of their family jewellery.

Last year’s sales included a new world record price for a blue diamond ‘Trombino ring’, which sold for £6.2million at Bonhams in London.

Jean Ghika, head of jewellery in the UK and Europe at Bonhams, said: “We estimate that there is at least £50 million worth of unwanted jewellery that owners have forgotten or never worn just waiting for a new home. We're urging everyone to have a look in their drawers and jewellery boxes, dusting off any items they haven't worn for several years or may have been bequeathed and not know much about.

Jean Ghika added:“It’s incredibly exciting not knowing what pieces will be brought in. Over the years we’ve had some astonishing finds, often brought to us in carrier bags or wrapped in tea towels!

“Many clients tell us they had simply forgotten about a piece of jewellery that might have been handed down to them when an elderly relative passed away. A lot of them have no idea just how valuable these pieces could be.”

Some of the most extraordinary ‘finds’ include:

· A rare art deco diamond, seed pearl, onyx and coral shoulder brooch, by Cartier, circa 1922. It had been worn by several generations of the same family but more recently it lay unused on the top of a wardrobe. It sold for £97,250.

· A pair of art deco natural pearl and diamond ear pendants, circa 1925. Brought to Bonhams in a supermarket carrier bag and sold for £157,250.

· A rare black enamel and diamond art deco bangle by Cartier sold for £96,000. Its previous owners hadn’t imagined it was worth a fraction of the final price when they brought it in for an assessment by Bonhams’ experts.

· Bonhams estimate £9.5m worth of unwanted jewellery gathering dust in this area.

South East:
· A rare art deco aquamarine and diamond bracelet sold for £46,850 after being brought in wrapped in a tea towel. Jean Ghika adds: “We were quite astonished. It was unwrapped and just dazzled everyone.”

· A 1950s floral spray brooch took £27,500 at auction after its owners uncovered it at the back of a drawer in their late mother’s house. It had not been worn for at least 20 years. Jean says: “This was typical of a several lovely pieces that really hadn’t been worn or appreciated for decades.”

· Bonhams estimate £4m worth of unwanted jewellery gathering dust in this area.

Oxford and Thames Valley:
· A belle époque diamond pendant/necklace, c1905, sold for £64,800.

· A 6.44 carats diamond single-stone ring sold for £35,000.

· A 5.50 carats marquise diamond single-stone ring sold for £19,200.

Jean Ghika said: “International buyers are increasingly turning to London to source rare pieces and investment jewellery. We’re seeing growing interest in jewellery from Europe and the Far East.”

· Bonhams estimate £4m worth of unwanted jewellery gathering dust in this area.

South West:
· A Burmese sapphire, mounted by Cartier, was one of the stunning gems uncovered by the Jewellery in June campaign. It sold for £23,750.

· An unusual art deco emerald and diamond bracelet, circa 1935 which had been in a bank vault for many years sold for £48,000.

· Bonhams estimate £3.5m worth of unwanted jewellery gathering dust in this area.

East Anglia:
· Beautiful antique jewellery and diamonds from the 19th and early 20th centuries including a 19th century emerald and diamond girandole brooch/pendant which sold for £34,850.

· An Edwardian pearl and diamond ring which sold for £12,000.

· An Edwardian diamond single-stone ring weighing 4.03 carats which sold for £22,500.

· Bonhams estimate £4m worth of unwanted jewellery gathering dust in this area.

· Pieces uncovered included signed art deco jewellery worth a total of £427,510. Much of it had been kept under lock and key and rarely enjoyed by its owners.

· A fine aquamarine, sapphire and diamond sautoir, by Cartier, c1920, sold for £216,000.

· An emerald and diamond ring, c1925, sold for £162,000.

· A natural pearl and diamond lavaliere, c1910, sold for £199,250.

Jean Ghika said: “There is increasing demand for jewellery that is signed. The addition of a ‘label’ seems to provide prospective buyers with added confidence.”

· Bonhams estimate £5m worth of unwanted jewellery gathering dust in this area.

• A rare natural pearl necklace which was thought to be cultured and of no particular value sold for £12,500.

• A marquise-cut diamond single-stone ring, weighing 5.55 carats, sold for £19,200. This was kept in the pocket of an old evening handbag. Jean Ghika said: “The granddaughter who discovered the ring was astonished as bids soared at the Bonhams auction and used the money for a deposit on her first flat. She described it as a life-changing day.”

· Bonhams estimate £3m worth of unwanted jewellery gathering dust in this area.

· A diamond necklace sold for £39,650. Jean Ghika says: “This was kept in a wooden box at the back of a wardrobe. The owner only had it insured for £4,000 so was speechless when the hammer came down. It meant that she had the money to pay off her mortgage and did not have to move house.”

· A 3.37 carat diamond single stone ring sold for £15,625.

· A pair of diamond single-stone earstuds, weighing 1.60 and 1.61 carats sold for £10,625.

· Bonhams estimate £4m worth of unwanted jewellery gathering dust in this area.

North East:
· A gorgeous diamond-set necklace was turned up during a house clearance. It sold for £39,650. In total, some £250,000 worth of gems were auctioned during the Jewellery in June campaign last year.

· A beautiful diamond single-stone ring, weighing 3.37 carats sold for £15,625.

· Bonhams estimate £2.5m worth of unwanted jewellery gathering dust in this area.

North West:
· A fine quality diamond single-stone ring came to light when their owners, who had inherited it, brought them in on the off chance Bonhams might be interested. It sold for £74,400.

· A beautiful belle époque sapphire and diamond heart-shaped pendant by Cartier astonished the owners when it sold for £55,250, five times its original estimate.

· Bonhams estimate £3.5m worth of unwanted jewellery gathering dust in this area.

· Traditional Scottish jewellery, as popularised by Queen Victoria, were among pieces unearthed and auctioned for an amazing £454,000 in total by Bonhams following the Jewellery in June campaign last year.

· A diamond single-stone ring weighing 6.27 carats sold for £27,500.

· A 3.15 carats diamond single-stone ring, c1930s, sold for £15,600.

· Bonhams estimate £5m worth of unwanted jewellery gathering dust in this area.

· A diamond single-stone ring, weighing 6.27 carats, sold for £27,500.

· A diamond single-stone ring, weighing 9.44 carats, sold for £64,800. This was found in an old attaché case by the granddaughter of an elderly lady during a house clearance. She thought the case contained more old family papers. Jean Ghika said: “There were a lot of boxes of papers and it was assumed this was just another. It must have been a wonderful moment when the case was opened and the diamond saw the light of day again.”

· Bonhams estimate £3m worth of unwanted jewellery gathering dust in this area.

With an annual turnover in the UK of £30.7 million in 2013, Bonhams jewellery department continues in its position of pre-eminence as market leaders in the UK. Jean Ghika added: “Current market conditions for fine jewellery, most specifically period pieces, fine coloured gem stones, diamonds and natural pearls, has never been stronger.

“During June our team of jewellery specialists will be available to give confidential valuations, free of charge, on any piece of jewellery you may be considering for auction.”

Founded in 1793, and one of the world’s largest auctioneers of antiques and fine art, Bonhams is recognised as the auction house of choice for those selling and buying jewellery. It has been the UK’s market leader in jewellery for three consecutive years and the success of its Jewellery in June campaign has been integral to bringing many rare and stunning pieces to the market.

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