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SJ Phillips: downsizing but “not closing down”

Long established London jewellers will hold sale at Sotheby’s following move to smaller premises, but director insists it is “business as usual”

S.J. Phillips former New Bond Street premises Sotheby's/S.J. Phillips

On 18 October at Sotheby’s, S.J. Phillips, the well known family-owned dealership in antique silver and jewellery, will sell 260 lots of English and continental silver, jewellery and objects of vertu following the firm’s move to smaller premises.

S.J. Phillips moved from Bond Street to neighbouring Bruton Street earlier this year after selling the freehold of 139 New Bond Street, its home since 1869, which was marketed for more than £70m by Levy Real Estate in 2015. After selling the property in December 2015 to Trophaeum Asset Management, S.J. Phillips leased the space until earlier this year.

The directors of S.J. Phillips, Jonathan, Francis and Nicolas Norton Sotheby’s

Founded by Solomon Joel Phillips, S.J. Phillips is one of London’s best known dealers in antique silver and jewellery. Clients include several generations of the Rothschild family, the Duke of Bedford, designer Jasper Conran and the editor-in-chief of Vogue, Anna Wintour, who says a visit to S.J. Phillips has "always been the highlight of any London trip…what I find especially captivating are the estate pieces, those dazzling, romantic reminders of past eras and personal histories.” Today, the business is run by the founder’s great-grandsons–brothers, Nicolas and Jonathan, and their cousin, Francis.

Dealers selling stock at auction can trigger rumours of a wind-down, but Nicolas Norton, director and great-grandson of the firm’s founder, told The Art Newspaper, “We’re not closing down or anything like that. It’s business as usual; in fact, it’s pretty good.” The move to the second floor of 26 Bruton Street has, Norton says, been “a success beyond our wildest dreams. We’ve even made new customers. I don’t know why we didn’t do it before.”

A Fabergé gold and enamel timepiece, workmaster Henrik Wigström, St Petersburg, 1908-1913 (est £ 120,000-£180,000) Sotheby's

In the Sotheby’s press release, Norton said “Owing to the smaller space we now have available, we are no longer able to display all of our collection successfully and have decided to part with a number of beautiful objects…S.J. Phillips and Sotheby’s have been neighbours on New Bond Street for over a century now and this sale celebrates our fantastic working relationship.”

Highlights of the sale include a Fabergé gold and enamel timepiece, (1908-1913) by Henrik Wigström (est £120,000-£180,000), a coloured diamond necklace (around 1910) (est £240,000-£280,000) and a George III silver-gilt tray by London silversmith James Young, engraved with the coat of arms of John James Hamilton, 1st Marquess of Abercorn (est £150,000-£200,000).

Appeared in The Art Newspaper, 294 October 2017