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Shining Bright

Shining Bright

Antique Roadshow’s Newest Star, Katherine Van Dell

22 July 2016

Jewelry specialist, Katherine Van Dell, is every bit as bright and appealing as the precious gems and gleaming metal that are her specialty. A graduate of The Tyler School of Art, she began her auction career at Freeman’s in 2011 and joined Rago in 2013, quickly becoming an integral part of its Fine Jewelry Department.

Katherine is the latest member of the Rago team invited by Antiques Roadshow to join its roster of expert appraisers. We caught up with Katherine to discuss her expectations of this new role, what she’s done to prepare for it, and what it’s like to be the ‘new kid on the block’. Here’s what she had to say:

How long have you been working in the auction industry and what attracted you to it?
I started working in the auction industry before I graduated from college and my focus from the very beginning has been jewelry. I majored in Metals and Art History at the Tyler School of Art and while I originally imagined myself designing jewelry, having been trained in bench craft and CAD CAM design, I found the art historical context of adornment equally, if not more, compelling. These interests, which felt disparate for a time, really came together in the auction industry.

What has been the most interesting part about working as an appraiser for Rago?
By far, the objects that pass across my desk and the people and circumstances that bring them to me. There is something so thrilling, and gratifying, about walking into a situation cold, recognizing something fantastic and then learning about the owners – their interests, their history – hearing the story through the objects. Jewelry is so incredibly personal - often times acquired in the most important events of a person's life – that it lends itself to story-telling. Of course, it doesn't always go this way, but feeling connected to the past and to other people gives clarity to the present and, without sounding cliché, fills my cup.

Were you a fan of Antiques Roadshow before being tapped to serve as an appraiser?
Of course! I grew up summering with my mother's family in Northern Minnesota. A few hours south of the Canadian border, a game of "Go Fish" or cable TV was all the diversion you got on a cool, rainy day off the lake. One of the few channels I remember watching was PBS and Antiques Roadshow was, by far, the family favorite.

How have you prepared for your role?
Well, every day on the job is prep! So is keeping up to speed with market trends, visiting museums and reading up on makers, styles etc. otherwise unfamiliar to me so I’ll be prepared for anything a little more obscure. I’ve also tried to be more mindful of bad habits (like looking off into space when I'm thinking or saying "um") that won't translate well on camera.

What are your initial impressions of working with the Antiques Roadshow?
I was absolutely thrilled! It has been a career goal for me since I started working in the industry.

How do you think valuing a piece of jewelry for Antiques Roadshow will compare to valuing a piece of jewelry for Rago?
I have to think in some ways, it will be the same, if not a little easier, because it isn’t complicated by also being a business transaction. My understanding of Roadshow is that people are excited and happy to be there - eager to hear what you have to tell them. Even if you're sharing some deflating news about financial value, you are engaged in what they have to say and you can give them insight into their possessions. That’s the best part of appraising.

What do you think makes Antiques Roadshow so interesting?
I think there are a lot of people who really appreciate the information, but even more than that, it’s the notion of discovering a hidden treasure that makes the show so exciting for most people. It’s like watching someone win the lottery!

What are you most looking forward to?
All of it! Appraising is probably my favorite part of the job but, in addition, I'll be meeting new people, seeing (albeit briefly) a new city and (hopefully) getting on TV... what’s not to love?! I’m so grateful for the opportunity.

Tune into Antiques Roadshow on your local PBS affiliate to experience the drama of discovery yourself. And be sure to check back with Rago’s blog throughout the summer as we continue our interview series exploring the role our appraisers play on this hit show and the truly unique experiences they have on tour.

Do you own any fine or antiques jewelry that you are looking to have appraised for auction? Get in touch with Katherine Van Dell.