Silver and Jewellery Intern – Sotheby’s

Universtiy of Exeter Internships, UoE Internships, SCP, SBP, GBP, A2I

What were your main duties and responsibilities during the course of your internship?

My most time consuming activity was research on pieces of art, which included authenticating the material, its origin, brand and artist; its history and value. For silver pieces, this meant mostly studying the marks. For jewels, research was about estimating the purity of the stone (in most cases they were diamonds). I participated in a few auction sales: presenting lots, or converting Euros into USD, GBP and HKD for international clients. I was also responsible for archiving data on sold lots and upcoming inventories, supervising the restoration of silver artefacts (on client demand), and generally assisting the experts I worked with. I hosted clients and participated in meetings where we would analyse and give an appreciation of an artefact’s value with chemical tests and professional equipment. Most of the research I carried out was part of the preparation for the winter sales.

What would you say was your biggest achievement over the course of your internship?

I perfected my research skills over many specific assignments on silver-wear artefacts. My assignments led me to the French National Archives, an environment in which a history student can fully appreciate and familiarise with the non-exhaustive list of documents and sources at his disposal. These assignments allowed me to further my skills and methodology, a few weeks before starting research on my third year dissertation.

What benefits did your internship bring to your employer?

All my research contributed to satisfying client demand (both from the seller and from the buyer). I lightened the workload of my supervisor, and I also managed to further my knowledge of the real value of artefacts through the outcomes of my research.
My help was often sought when translating English to French or otherwise, as Sotheby’s has its most important offices in New York and London. I realised how much of an advantage it is to be fluent in French and English.

Did you encounter any problems during the course of your internship and if so, how did you overcome them?

One problem I faced as soon as I arrived at Sotheby’s was that I was unfamiliar with technical language of  silver-art and jewellery and with the techniques used to appraise objects . For example, it took me a lot of time at first to identify a mark on a silver-wear piece. After some time, I became faster, gained better judgement and autonomy from my supervisor.

As I was left alone on assignments after a few days, I had to carry-out my research without guidance. At first, I only used Gallica and WorldCat. After a few days, I became familiar with other, less obvious databases: our local archives, and specialised libraries (not necessarily catalogued online). I called contacts in other departments or outside of Sotheby’s, who were able to point me in unexplored directions. I was therefore able to use different research supports, and used this diversity to improve my research.

I was often teamed up with another intern named Josephine. She was passionate about jewellery. We would often seek each other’s help and opinion on our assignments, which allowed us to combine forces and overcome difficulties.