2633 Jewels Gardner1

Selection of jewellery from the Anthony Gardner collection to be sold by Bellmans in Wisborough Green on April 16.

Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

Gardner (1938-2023), a RADA-trained actor and St Martins graduate, started The Purple Shop in the 1960s with Becker, a trained graphic designer from Germany.

Partners in life and business, the couple first sold fur coats and belts on the Portobello Road, but soon created a much-loved Chelsea brand specialising in costume jewellery, Art Nouveau, Arts & Crafts and Art Deco.

Selling from a unit at Antiquarius on the King’s Road until the 1990s, in its pomp The Purple Shop name and its wares appeared regularly on the catwalk and in the pages of fashion magazines.

Mixing in all the right circles (Gardner’s occasional work on the stage and screen included a role alongside Elizabeth Taylor in Franco Zeffirelli’s The Taming of the Shrew), the firm cultivated a customer base that included Vivienne Westwood, Zandra Rhodes, Mary Quant, Princess Margaret and Barbra Streisand.

Gardner and Becker were themselves avid collectors. Just how much they had accumulated over half a century emerged when Bellmans was asked to clear their Fulham house in advance of its sale.

As well as the array of Art Nouveau and Deco standards that decorated the walls and the surfaces, staff found boxes of stock untouched for a generation and a private collection of jewellery that will account for almost half of a 604-lot single-owner sale on April 16.

In addition to jewels by Edward Colonna, Sybil Dunlop, Cartier and Boucheron, of particular note is Gardner’s collection of close to 100 Arts & Crafts belt buckles.

Although seldom worn today, this was an item of personal adornment to which all makers and designers of the late 19th and early 20th century turned their hand.

On offer at Bellmans is a huge variation on the theme with the examples made for Liberty & Co alone including designs by Jessie M King, Kate Harris, Archibald Knox, William Hair Haseler and Rex Silver.

Two large handmade silver examples carry marks for the Birmingham Guild of Handicraft, while a series of gilt metal and enamel pieces are monogrammed for the Art Nouveau fashion jewellery company Piel Frères.

Buckles are not the most commercial form today (although relatively easy to display, there are relatively few dedicated collectors) but these 67 lots will surely prove highly desirable at estimates under £200 each.

The Anthony Gardner collection will be sold by Bellmans in Wisborough Green on April 16 with a preview in London at Cromwell Place on March 12-13.