"I love the idea of being sat in the pub with the brotherhood"

Sworders' Head of Auctioneering Briony Harford shares her obsessions and most memorable moments on the rostrum....


Briony Harford

Briony Harford | Head of Auctioneering


If money were no object what would you collect?
I have always been obsessed with the Pre-Raphaelites, their romantic notions, and particularly their depictions of women. If I had all the money in the world my walls would be full of Rossettis and Millais fighting for space. I love the idea of being sat in the pub with the brotherhood, discussing how best to make an impact and have their voices heard - going against the grain and painting literature onto canvas. Quite simply, creating poetry through the paintbrush!

What object have you most enjoyed selling and why?
My favourite object to sell was a yellow and white gold, single stone, 3ct fancy vivid yellow diamond ring. It was an absolute stunner and like no ring I have ever seen. The beauty of this job is getting to handle these incredible jewels that you would normally only ever get to see in the shop windows of Cartier! But this isn't my favourite lot purely because of its beauty, it's because I remember selling it on the rostrum so vividly. The low estimate of £10,000 was far exceeded when it sold for £21,500. A room bidder and an internet bidder took it to its heights, and it was so evident to me how much both bidders had fallen in love with it and couldn’t imagine going home without it. With each returned bid from the internet, the saleroom held bated breath, urging the room bidder to try once more. You could hear a pin drop. I could see in the bidder’s eyes that she felt it was a losing battle and that the internet was determined. It will always be memorable for me. Although we handle hundreds of items each week, to our buyers, just one can mean the world! 

What was your most surprising find of the year?
Enamel signs are certainly on-trend at the moment and consistently command high hammer prices at auction. However, we were blown away by the Hill’s ‘Fine Shag’ enamel sign that sold earlier this year in our Homes and Interiors sale for an incredible £3,500. Not only was the sign a rare example, but it was in impeccable condition for its age. It formed part of the Trevor Barton Pipe Collection that proved to be a great success over lockdown.



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