After gaining his FGA and DGA qualifications he joined Phillips as a junior cataloguer in the jewellery department. “We took in enough goods to hold a 200-lot sale every fortnight. It was incredibly hard work but we regularly punched above our weight, often consigning star lots which would fetch an absolute fortune today.
“Many of the leading names of our industry cut their teeth at Phillips in the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s. We were all on a steep learning curve and the sheer volume of goods we processed was to stand us in very good stead as our personal careers progressed.”
Benjamin began working on Antiques Roadshow in 1991.
Blessing in disguise
He spent 23 years at Phillips, ultimately becoming international director of jewellery, but was one of a number of senior directors made redundant when in 1999 the company changed hands.
“At the time it was not a very pleasant experience but in hindsight it was best thing which could have happened. The following Monday after my departure I started up my own independent jewellery consultancy, John C Benjamin Limited.
“Former colleagues and clients were incredibly kind at this time and business flowed right from the outset. I have always enjoyed public speaking and this aspect of the consultancy also helped to raise my profile – crucial when you are trying to establish new relationships with both the corporate and private sectors.”
Passing on the knowledge
Today, the basis of Benjamin’s work largely revolves around education. “I was lucky to come into the business when rare and obscure antique jewels were not only available but those dealers and specialists who bought and sold them were still alive and active.
“Those days are well and truly over and now I see it as my job to pass on the knowledge to others which was so generously given to me all those years ago.”
Also see John Benjamin's auction review this edition.