Vintage and antique jewellery are very much in vogue. With renewed interest in the 1920s – thanks to the latest film adaptation of The Great Gatsby, and ethically inclined purchasers opting for classic artisan pieces – is it any wonder that a band of young guns is now swelling the ranks of the antique jewellery trade?
Sam Loxton, 33, is among 12 heirloom hawkers to draw praise during National Antiques Week. A Woking resident and manager of Mayfair’s boutique jewellers, Lucas Rarities, he is an international authority on period jewellery.
Starting out at Christie’s, Sam is now a fully-fledged gemologist with a passion for Art Deco pieces by the likes of Paul Iribe, Suzanne Belperron and Paul Flato.
“I consider myself a champion of antique jewellery and hope to start a revolution against the modern stuff, which is being mass-marketed worldwide,” he says.
Sam was brought up in South-East London, but moved to Surrey and is now settled with his wife and two children in Woking.
“We used to live in Kingston, but we found we could get more for our money in Woking,” he says. “I play a lot of golf, so the area’s perfect. It’s like a village: the people are so friendly and polite. Mind you, in some ways we were spoilt in Kingston – my wife loves Bentalls!”
And besides playing golf, how else does Sam spend his time outside the treasure-hunting bunker?
“I do charity work for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. I’ve been diabetic for 25 years, so I organise golf days to raise money and give lectures on living with the condition.”
Where does Sam’s interest in jewellery stem from?
“My father was exceedingly talented,” he says. “He was actually a builder, but he was also a silversmith who made my mother’s wedding band.”
At 15, Sam took a part-time job at Bonhams, one of the world’s oldest and largest art auctioneers. Enamoured of old books and antiques, he left school in 1997 with the option of work at the National Art Library, or with Christie’s as a porter in the jewellery department. Having taken the latter route, he rose quickly to the top.
Manager at Lucas Rarities since 2007, Sam now travels the globe buying, selling and lecturing on jewellery investments. His real satisfaction, however, is wrought from making rare and beautiful discoveries.
“Jewellery really is an art, but for some reason it doesn’t attract the same prices as paintings,” he says with bejewelled zeal. “A piece sold for £1m is hard to find.
“Art Deco has a great following. It developed at a time of huge political, economic and social change which brought new affluence. It was also a time of development in design. The use of platinum, silver and semi-precious stones tore up the rulebook and led to some important pieces by major designers, each of them unique. Ground-breaking stuff. This is what inspired my love of the period.”
And it’s Sam’s passion for daring design and skilled craft that fuels his loathing of the large, modern brands.
“There’s just a lack of new ideas. There are, admittedly, a finite number of designs, but what’s being produced is boring. There’s nothing new in the market, and so much of it is poorly made in the Far East. And the fact of celebrities wearing the stuff doesn’t help.”
So what sets Lucas Rarities apart?
“Well, first of all, you can go green with vintage. It’s sustainable,” says Sam, matter-of-factly.
“We work by appointment only. It’s old school, offering service away from the hustle and bustle, handling specific requests, offering advice on investing and sourcing pieces.
“We’ll buy anything. What we’re really looking for is quality, aesthetic value and condition. Making money is less important to us. It’s more about the pleasure of selling to someone who loves the piece – putting smiles on people’s faces and making them feel valued.”
It has been a hectic year for Sam, jetting about the world. Yet he admits that business is troublingly quiet in London.
“People do have money, but the trade is by no means recession-proof. It’s a luxury goods market which, touch wood, is still strong at the top end, but the bottom to middle is struggling.”
No time for rest or complacency, then. But is there one particularly valuable or exotic rarity that stands out in Sam’s experience? And what does his family make of his gilded profession?
“I have a bracelet made from the bones of murderers from Indonesia,” he laughs. “My wife can’t stand it. If I ever dare to wear it, she says, she’ll divorce me!”