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Born and educated in Redbridge (Greater London)
Studied Medical Technology at the Royal London Hospital and University College Hospital.
Awarded a research/clinical post studying the heterogeneity of bleeding disorders at University College
Whilst living and studying in London I had the privilege of working in an antique jewellery store in the famous Burlington Arcade in London. The first enclosed shopping street of its kind in London, Burlington Arcade opened in 1819. The narrow row of shops occupies the space between Piccadilly and Burlington Gardens and became famous worldwide for the sale of luxury goods and antiques.
This was my first introduction to the world of antiques and I was hooked. I discovered the world of sentimental Georgian and Victorian jewellery whilst rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous. Although I did eventually leave this fairy tale world to marry, would you believe it a jeweller, I was able to return on future buying trips to spend a few days reacquainting myself with the wonderful stock and clientele.
My husband, Geoff purchased a jewellery business in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1979. A business which first opened its doors in 1935. Geoff is a goldsmith trained in Hatton Garden, the Central School of Art and the Sir John Cass College, London.
I was able to join Geoff in the business and managed the retail shop, having learnt about the retail trade in depth by working for a friend who ran his own family jewellery store. The experience enabled me to understand stock control, accounting and the buying of stock as well as managing staff, window dressing and displays. I also took time to study gemmology, diamond grading, pearl grading, jewellery evaluating and finally antique jewellery, my first love.
Photograph of Corinne from a newspaper article published in 1985, click here to view the whole article.
Initially I shared a small space in Geoff’s shop where I could indulge in my passion for antique jewellery. My first buying trip to London was great fun but exhausting! Rising at 4 in the morning to travel to the various antiques markets, fairs, shops and centres, often shopping with a torch required great dedication and an expert eye but I loved every minute of the hunt for those tiny treasures. Before returning to South Africa it was mandatory to have my purchases authenticated as genuine antiques which involved making an appointment with an expert at the London and Provincial Antique Dealers Association (LAPADA). For a small fee each item would be certified as this was required for customs purposes on re-entering South Africa.
Photograph of Corinne from a newspaper article published in 1996, click here to view the whole article.
The next big step was to establish my own store selling not only antique jewellery, but furniture, glass, porcelain, clocks, silverware and object’s d’art. Now I was in seventh heaven! Geoff and I had separate shops for a number of years but we eventually joined forces in the heart of one of Johannesburg’s largest and most popular streets filled with antique shops, (about thirty altogether) trendy boutiques, restaurants and coffee shops. We again had our repair and restoration workshop on the first floor above the retail shop, from where we were able to offer a fine range of Victorian and early 20th century jewellery, clocks, watches and silverware in addition to a design and evaluation service and pearl and bead re-stringing.
We became very involved in the antiques community, and this is another aspect that I really enjoy, the comradeship and sharing of knowledge amongst the dealers, many of whom became firm friends.
We were invited to become members of the South African Antique Dealers Association which had been founded in 1963 to further the interests of antique dealers and collectors by promoting integrity and honest dealing by its members. This prestigious association is a member of The International Confederation of Dealers in Works of Art (CINOA) which includes most member countries in Europe and the United States. As an active member Geoff became involved with the department of customs for the certification of imports, arbitration in issues of dispute and eventually became chairman of the association, a position he held for seven years.
We worked hard with other dealers to promote antiques and their value, we offered advice and knowledge to our clients, raised money for various charities with events involving antiques and even held a Christmas dinner in our shop for about twenty of our colleagues one year. A dinner including turkey, ham and all the traditional trimmings which Geoff and one of the other dealers cooked on a charcoal barbeque in the courtyard at the back of the shop, a great time was had by all into the wee small hours.
We of course met many interesting people over the years, another aspect of the trade I so enjoy. No two days are the same and you have no idea in the morning what will happen that day. On one occasion a tour operator arrived with a sultan and his entourage from the UAE who wanted to take gifts home after his visit to one of the private game reserves. I did not realise how much money one person could spend in 10 minutes, he must have spent a small fortune in the street altogether. Another memorable day occurred when F.W. De Klerk, the former president of South Africa who was instrumental in the negotiations for the release from prison of Nelson Mandela, arrived with his then new wife and he purchased an item of jewellery for her while his body guard waited outside.
We were asked by a decorator on one occasion to supply a long case clock for Nelson Mandela’s office at his children’s foundation in Johannesburg. The nature of this great man was typified when he informed us that although it was indeed a beautiful clock it was a far too extravagant choice for his office, so different to South Africa’s present presidential incumbent! Other great people that we met and served include Nelson Mandela’s third wife Graça Machel, such a friendly and gracious lady, Louis Gossett jnr., Sylvester Stallone’s brother an absolute charmer with a great sense of humour and Vanessa Wanenberg a former Miss World.
The list goes on but enough said, those were exciting times. Sourcing stock for the shop was challenging, we had to search for each and every piece, we could not telephone a supplier and place an order. We had to travel the country as well as to distant shores in order to find appealing, saleable items, another aspect of this business that I so enjoyed. Initially I would travel to London and Europe searching for jewellery but as time went on we started to import a part container with clocks and furniture and this proved another positive aspect of the trade that we could organise to share a container with another dealer in the street, thus sharing the costs which eventually, sadly proved to be excessive for a small business.
During our time in Johannesburg I was often invited to give talks and presentations to interested groups which included various church groups, senior citizens organisations and that wonderful international organisation the Women’s Institute. I was a member of the Decorative Arts Society in Johannesburg, which is a non-profit making membership society, organised for the purpose of presenting lectures to people who share an interest in the Fine and Decorative Arts. I was asked by this prestigious group to deliver an hour and a half lecture about the English long case clock, another privilege that I so enjoyed.
We also enjoyed organising antique road shows which we held around the country and at the major antique fair held once a year in Johannesburg, this revealed many interesting items that do not generally come onto the market.
In 2006 we made the decision to semi retire to the coast of Kwa-Zulu Natal about 120km south of Durban. Of course you cannot semi retire and we soon became just as involved in the antique’s trade there. I had long been involved on the executive fund raising committee for the SPCA in Roodeport, just outside Johannesburg. A meeting with an amazing lady n Port Shepstone, who rescued, re-homed and neutered stray animals, mainly cats and dogs, spurred me to open a charity shop in KZN to help fund the work that she was doing.
There are so many causes that need financial help in South Africa that we also started to support a rural crèche in the vicinity. In addition to the shop we also held several events including antique road shows, events around South Africa’s heritage celebrations, an auction of donated items over dinner, a Greek evening and a fabulous champagne, pearl and oyster’s brunch. Our annual Christmas hamper was a great fund raiser with the amazing contents being donated, and many holiday makers from up country contributed to its success. The charity shop is still in existence and funding the care of stray and abandoned animals as well as supporting people who foster animals until their forever home is found.
Well in 2015 we left South Africa to join our daughter, Erica and her Canadian husband here in Calgary. Erica has always wanted to run an antiques business and we are offering all the support that we can to enable her to do this. Her approach is very different to ours but we feel that she will succeed in bringing knowledge and appreciation to antique jewellery in Calgary in the 21st century.
We have found the antiques and collectables trade in Calgary very different to what we have experienced previously, but we are determined to find out what makes it tick. We spent a year visiting sales and antiques fairs in and around Calgary before venturing into the laid back world of selling our own treasures. As people, both the trade and the public, have come to know who we are and what we are about, we find that they are generally very welcoming. We are spreading the word about our restoration and repair workshop, often offering skills that are not easy to find elsewhere and this, as always, has opened many doors.
It has been easy to make our new home in this amazing country that offers security, freedom and the promise of a great future, but the enormous help and encouragement from our daughter and son-in-law is what has made it all happen.
We look forward to taking La Vogue Vintage to the next generation with Erica as we have passed onto her the knowledge and experience that we acquired over the past 45 years. She will give the business her own twist with the energy and focus that she always puts into the projects she is passionate about, and her husband Mitch will be there as her backstop and keep her grounded with his own special perspective. We, no doubt, will look back with pride.