It’s not the sort of thing that I’d buy usually, but it was the artwork on this packet of 1940s Atomaid Hosiery nylon stockings that caught my eye. At first I almost thought it was a modern ‘vintage’ joke, but looking closer, it was clear from the material of, and wear on, the packaging that this was a period piece. For £3, I couldn’t say no! So what’s the story here? Before the 1940s, a lady couldn’t step outside her home without wearing stockings. It was considered inappropriate for a woman to be bare-legged in public, unless sunbathing at the beach. Coloured darker than skin, silk was the most common material used until the proliferation of Nylon, developed by Wallace Carothers at DuPont in 1935, and Rayon which was developed decades earlier. Nylon snagged less, so held up and lasted longer than silk, even if it was less shiny. They were also a good fit, as the packet shouts, ‘SUPER QUALITY – SUPER SHEER – SUPER FIT’. During World War II, such …

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Primitive Indian Doll Head

I don’t usually buy wooden things, but I always pick up and look at things that catch my eye, regardless of what they are made of, or even are. There’s always something new to learn. Last time I went to the excellent antiques centres at Sawbridgeworth in Essex, I found this rather stern looking lady in the Herts & Essex Antiques Centre, priced at £15. Roughly hewn from from wood, she had a certain naive and primitive charm that said something to me. She also had a very good level of wear and a great patina, indicating that she had some age and had been handled a fair bit. You could say that my rough lady had been around the block a few times… As the Victorian period saw many revivals, and the production of furniture and objects in much earlier styles dating from the 16th century onwards, I thought she might have been made in Europe, maybe Britain, sometime during the 19th century. Perhaps as something that looked like it had been made …

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I recently wrote an article for The Daily Mail’s ‘Weekend’ magazine about my experiences behind the scenes of the Antiques Roadshow. Although I still see myself a a ‘new boy’, I’ve been a specialist on the show for nearly a decade now. How time has flown – and what stories have been uncovered and discoveries made! What’s more, the article made the front cover of the magazine. So a couple of us specialists were asked along to a grand house in North London to do a special photoshoot with celebrity photographer Nicky Johnston. You can see one of the results below. We had so much fun! Our much-loved presenter Fiona Bruce was interviewed, along with other experts including Eric Knowles, Joanna Hardy, and Ronnie Archer-Morgan. My article also covers everything from how filming really works to the research we undertake, and from the most valuable finds we’ve ever made to the most bizarre. For me, the most valuable was a Tiffany glass panel filmed at Towneley Hall in Lancashire that could fetch …

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I was once again asked by Homes & Antiques magazine to be part of an expert panel given the nigh-on impossible task of selecting the ’50 Best Antiques & Vintage Shops’ from across the UK. My colleagues were drawn from across the full spectrum of the modern antiques, decorative and vintage industry today and included homeware designer Sophie Conran, vintage specialist Wayne Hemingway, celebrity interior designer Nicky Haslam, and my fellow Antiques Roadshow expert Katherine Higgins. We raided our exclusive ‘little black books’ to come up with a list of ‘must-visits’ whatever your tastes or however deep (or shallow!) your pockets are. Where do you go to find a fabulous mid-century couch? Or an elegant Georgian sideboard? Homes & Antiques magazine’s article has the answers!

Click here to read about the UK’s 50 Best Antiques & Vintage Shops.

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Jonathan Harris Elvis Presley Cameo Graal Vase designed by Mark Hill

Me, Elvis Presley and Jonathan Harris? An unlikely combination, I hear you say. Well, I’d agree, it’s funny how seemingly disparate things can come together for some reason. But, quite often, when they do, amazing things happen. And that’s what happened here. In this instance, it was The British Glass Foundation charity that brought us together. Earlier this year, they set a ‘Doodle Challenge’ and asked celebrities, well-known faces in the glass world and local schools to produce a doodle that would then be translated into glass by a crack team of some of the best glassmasters in the country. Doodles came in from actress Emma Thompson, singers and musicians Frankie Valli, Tony Hadley, Robert Plant and Beverley Knight, chef Raymond Blanc, much-loved and recently knighted comedian Sir Lenny Henry and others. Oh, and BBC Antiques Roadshow specialists and glass addicts Andy McConnell and me. I was delighted when my doodle (left) went to my friend Jonathan Harris, the globally renowned and hugely talented and skilled cameo and graal glass artist. Looking …

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Roger Fry Portrait

They lived in squares, painted circles and loved in triangles.” said American poet and wit Dorothy Parker about the many members of the Bloomsbury Group. A loosely (yet often very closely!) related group of artists, writers, critics, aesthetes, intellectuals and philosophers, I’ve been obsessed with them since school, and relished learning more about them at university. From colourful, avant garde pictures, to novels, biographies and, of course, details of their often complex relationships, this group of colourful people has absolutely fascinated me. I’ve always longed to own a ‘piece of it’ – but it has to be something proper, something real, and preferably something unique. Although I’ve enjoyed reading (and re-reading) books by Virgina Woolf et al, a paperback just doesn’t cut the mustard for me. And somehow a print doesn’t quite work either, which is very unlike me! Wandering around our local auction room last month, I spotted a painting of a young man (above) hanging relatively prominently on the end of a wall. As I passed by, I glanced at the signature …

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Over the past few weeks, I’ve been involved with the cataloguing, valuation and sale of a small collection of Murano glass once owned by the legendary businessman, politician and collector Lord Alistair McAlpine (1942-2014). Built up from the 1980s-2000s, the collection was acquired by his friend the writer and curator Karun Thakar, who has taken the decision to sell it. iInnovative online auction house The Auction Room (part of a group also including Bloomsbury Auctions, Dreweatts and Mallett)are handling the sale – which is online for viewing and bidding now. The majority of the pieces from the collection were produced by Carlo Moretti, founded in 1958. They’re most notable for their acid-finished matte display and drinking goblets, footed jars and vases in vivid colours such as light blue, yellow or red, which were released c1959. Often lined with translucent white glass, they have an unusual plastic-like appearance typical of the 1960s & 70s. Other notable designs include bi-colour swirls in white and a strong colour, in vase, ashtray and bowl forms. The …

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It’s a charming twist that could have come from the pen of P.G. Wodehouse. Upon the death of his indomitable, aged socialite aunt Mary, Duchess of Roxburghe (right), 80-year old TV personality and ertswhile host of ‘University Challenge’ Bamber Gascoigne ‘accidentally’ inherited the stately pile of West Horsley Place in Surrey. Once described by its aristocratic owners as a ‘cottage’, this oft-ignored country house dates back to the 11th century and is unusually contructed in red brick with a ‘rustic’ version of the Classical architectural features that became popular from the 16th century onwards. Previous owners include King Henry VIII, Viscount Montagu, the family of Sir Walter Raleigh and, most recently, the Crewe family, from which its last owner was descended. It’s even reputed that Raleigh’s severed head was kept there for a while by his distraught wife, before being interred in St Mary’s Church opposite. Local legend has it that there was (is?) a secret tunnel that led from West Horsley Place to the  church, to enable the encumbent Catholic family to worship secretly in …

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Monumental Blenko
BIG COLOR!

Blenko Big Color Glass

I’m a great fan of Blenko glass due to its stunning, vibrant colours and array of quirky forms. The pieces that attract me the most are the large floor decanters, with their voluptuous, sculptural curves and extravagently large stoppers. I’ve only been lucky enough to own one piece – the 22in (56cm) high Turquoise decanter shown here, which I spotted on holiday once and hauled back home – all the way from St Louis, Missouri! Alas, I sold it some years ago – all part of the perils of being a dealer and a collector I guess. I regret it as we don’t see much Blenko here as it was rarely exported from the US into the UK, and I’ve always wanted to learn more. So I was delighted when my friend Toma Clark Haines, the Antiques Diva, introduced me to Damon Crain, a researcher, dealer and collector of Blenko and other American art glass based in New York. Blenko was founded in 1921 in Milton, Virginia by British expat glassmaker William Blenko as The …

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A James Elder Christie Portrait

I don’t look at this sort of thing usually. Those of you who know me, my books or my site know that I’m a ‘twentieth century boy’, and forays into other periods are scarce. It might surprise you to learn that our home is far from the mid-century ‘Madmen’ paradise that you may think, but is in fact filled with a huge variety of objects from many different periods – many of them 18th & 19thC. Most of our furniture is Victorian, for example, and I can’t resist etchings. They’re things that I picked up on the way because I liked them, or because they caught my eye or, as is the case with so much ‘brown furniture’ they were inexpensive and well-made. Visiting Past Caring in Islington, one of my favourite central London hunting grounds, this weekend I happened on this rather chocolate boxy Victorian pastel of a rather serious looking lady. It’s not the usual thing I’d buy and it looked rather out of place amidst the mid-century miscellany that the shop …

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If I don’t find anything I want when I’m browsing antiques shops and fairs, I’m fond of hunting through glass cabinets for cufflinks. Whether or not I take any home depends on how much they cost. Last time I did this, I found this intriguing pair of brass cufflinks, that looked like they had been gold-plated at some point as some of the plating remained. I usually go for much more colourful enamelled examples, or those made from precious metals that the seller may not have identified…! But these intrigued me. The heraldic motifs of the seated large dog beneath a Latin motto begged to be researched and, well, the £2 price tag was hardly going to stop me! What I found after some judicious googling the Latin motto, and double-checking the information, was a rather charming canine tale. The cufflinks possibly related to William Phillips (1752-1828), who inherited numerous estates from his family, owned the leases on prestigious central London properties and possibly ran a wine merchant in the 1780s. One day, while bathing at Portsmouth, he …

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As some of you will know, I’m very fond of wearing a bowler hat. I’ve had many over the years, which isn’t really the point. The first was an antique one from the early 20th century that, completely by chance, fitted me perfectly. When I left it in the dark boot of a hire car in San Francisco in a rush to catch a plane I was so devastated that I vowed only ever to buy inexpensive, easily replaceable modern ‘fashion’ versions in the future to avoid that dreadful feeling again. Six hats later, after leaving my last one in the luggage hold of a plane, I realised that that was the wrong path to take – I ought to buy the best to encourage me to pay more attention to it. And it ought to be antique, or vintage at the very least, considering what I do and love. Trawling through vintage costume shops didn’t yield anything that was a combination of good enough quality, good enough condition and the right size for …

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