Conversations with my father Edward Donohoe a former London antique jewellery and object dealer and some of his wonderful stock. My father Ted was a diplomat in his former life and then an antique jeweller in London, he and my mother were in business together for most of my life, over the 70s, 80s and until 1996 when they had a rather dramatic and horrible robbery of every single piece of stock from right under their noses, whilst cooking dinner at home after a fair. It was only when the last robber left with the last case that my mother heard a noise! This was according to the police a lucky thing because the robbers obviously came well prepared and who knows what would have happened if they had been caught in the act. My parents were at the pinnacle of their careers they had established a very good reputation and had built up a very good stock indeed. Purple white and green, the colours of the Suffragette movement in amethyst pearl and green garnet necklace. Green, violet and white spell out Give Votes for Women c1910 They were always working. My sister – the actress Amanda Donohoe and I hardly saw them, unless they dragged us along to help with setting up glass cases, or to languish at the stand, to be told off for our punk clothes amongst the cardigan wearing antiquerati and the well-heeled customers. Tudor hedgehog crest ring c 1550 My parents were obsessed by their business and had little time for us children. We ran wild, my sister Amanda famously went out with the punk pop singer Adam Ant, touring with him, looking after his clothes and make up, finding a taste for celebrity, with tabloid journalists hiding in our bushes and I ran off to summer pop concerts and hung around with similarly rebellious children. William 111 Tipstaff engraved with the arms of the City of Newcastle upon Tyne 1693 It is only now in many years later that I can appreciate my father and understand that he did the best he could. He was not a man who knew anything about child rearing but he always provided well for the family and has been there for us all through thick and thin. But it is his scholarship, his scrupulous honesty and his reputation within the trade that I am impressed by – and this is no small achievement. His reference library is superb and I delve into it with utter respect and wonder. We cannot always have the parents we want, and actually perhaps the ones we have are not so bad after all.
Mourning ring for Jeremy Bentham British philosopher, jurist, and social reformer. He is regarded as the founder of modern utilitarianism. Ted loved historical jewels and had he had the means he would have sought out medieval jewellery exclusively. When I told him recently that I wanted to deal, he immediately passed me the book on the Cheapside hoard – the lost treasure of 16th and 17th Century jewels discovered in 1912. Gold mounted locket in rock crystal in the Renaissance manner enamelled 19th C My father went into the antique jewellery business in the early 70s. He had been in the diplomatic service and it was when they threatened to post him to Bangladesh that he realised that he loved London and wanted to stay put. My mother already had an antique furniture shop in West Hampstead, a suburb of London and when the lease ran out on that, she formed a partnership with some other dealers to be based at Gray’s Antique market in central London. At first she wouldn’t let him near the business. And Ted explains ‘It was when they quarrelled, that I stepped in and ours became one of the better businesses in town.’ They started at Olympia Fine Art and Antique Fair and then Chelsea followed. Both fairs were fantastic affairs, they were very successful in the 80s and 90s. And I remember helping out at them all. Victoria Borwick ran Olympia and she is now London Mayor – Boris Johnson’s deputy. ‘Chelsea was the most fashionable event, everybody went to Chelsea. It was like a small Masterpiece (the grandest antique fair in London now). The queue would stretch all the way down from the Kings Road to the river! I couldn’t keep up with the invoices; I had to ask them to come back later!’ ‘The secret of the success of Chelsea was having famous guest speakers and famous people to open the fairs –actors or politicians. I remember Lauren Bacall bought some jewellery from me and then invited me back to her flat at Grosvenor House for a whiskey, flatly ignoring her clamouring fans as if they were the most tedious things in the world.’ Charles 11 miniature painting set in gold 1660s and carved coral strawberries and gold earrings 19th C Steel snuff box with men smoking and drinking to the toast ‘success to trade’ 1744
From the current organiser of the Chelsea Antique Fair Caroline Penman
Loved this blog about Ted – and purred over your enthusiasm for Chelsea Fair – I only wish Chelsea still had that cachet! But size has always been the limiting factor. Oh to be a Masterpiece! I will always remember Ted and Joanna with the utmost respect for their knowledge, integrity and stock. Joanna played a large part in my acquisition of the Chelsea Fair – we were both going to the loo upstairs in June Olympia, and the word was out that I was bidding for Chelsea. Joanna said ” Don’t be so stupid – you couldn’t run Chelsea!” This was a challenge… So I added £5,000 to the sealed bid – and acquired the fair!