An old chest of drawers that was expected to make next to nothing when it was sent to a Louth saleroom for auction has been discovered to have a secret compartment - containing a hoard of antique jewellery worth thousands of pounds.
Auctioneers at the John Taylors saleroom, who located the secret drawer, were amazed to find it jammed with gold rings, brooches, bracelets, stickpins and other items, many dating back to the Victorian period.
The chest of drawers is expected to go for as little as £50 or £60 when it goes under the hammer next Tuesday (January 30). However, it is thought the jewellery will make £10,000 to £15,000.
John Taylors’ director James Laverack said: “We realised we might have something interesting when the chest, from a deceased estate house clearance in the Wolds, was being unloaded in our yard.
“The light happened to catch an unusual line in a band of wood beneath the top of the piece.
“Our search then revealed a catch hidden in one of the lower drawers that popped the secret drawer - which is when the surprises really started.
“There was so much stuff jammed in there that it was quite difficult to get it open”
The drawer contained more than 20 jewellery boxes, holding almost three dozen individual pieces. Mr Laverack continued: “The hoard includes a particularly fine collection of what are known as reverse intaglio pieces. This is jewellery that is produced by an intricate process in which rock crystal is carved, painted and set in precious metal. The startling result is that the image, usually an animal head or face, appears to be 3-D when viewed.”
“These pieces were all the rage in the Victorian period – and they’re very collectable today.”
The items hidden in the drawer include two sets of cufflinks featuring dogs heads and wild animals that have been rated as between £1,000 to £1,500.
There is also a Jack Russell brooch, in which the reverse intaglio cabochon is surrounded by diamonds and rubies, which is anticipated to attract a lot of attention, as well as other unusual pieces depicting hunting subjects such as fox and horse heads.
Mr Laverack added: “Secret drawers or compartments are often found in antique desks, bureaux, writing boxes and travelling chests, but less often in pieces of bedroom furniture like this.
“Usually when they get to us they are either empty or have just a few pieces of old junk left behind.
“For sure, this is the most interesting secret drawer find we’ve ever made.”
The jewellery, and the chest of drawers, will be on display at John Taylor’s saleroom at the Old Woolmart in Louth this Sunday, January 28, from 2pm to 4pm and next Tuesday morning (January 30) from 8.30am until a quarter of an hour before the start of the sale at 10am.
The auction is to be webcast live via www.the-saleroom.com .