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Monique Weston: Taking Collectibles to the next level

Monique Weston is based in Johannesburg as our silver, carpet, furniture and clock specialist. Take note of this highly-motivated expert, she is taking our department to new heights.

Get to know Monique Weston:
When and where were you born?
Oudtshoorn in the Little Karoo on 18th October 1970.

Where did you grow up?
Oudtshoorn and the Garden Route.

How long have you been working for Stephan Welz & Co.?
I started working for Stephan Welz & Co. in Cape Town in 1998 until 2006.  I recently re-joined the company in the Johannesburg office in May 2016.

How did you start working for Stephan Welz & Co.?
I was appointed as the Cape Town office Administrator.  After a year I was asked if I would be interested in taking over the Silver Department, if the company trained me.  It was a huge challenge, but I had wonderful support and training from the company and my colleagues.

What, in your opinion, does it take to host a successful auction?
To host a successful auction involves so many aspects, but I think team work, commitment and a life-long interest in antiques is a key factor.  The job is very pressurized, so it is important to be passionate about your work in order to stay motivated.

What was your favourite item auctioned by Stephan Welz & Co.?
I remember we sold a magnificent Silver Rose Bowl by Paul Storr for over R400000, which was very exciting at the time.  However, on a personal note, auctioning a silver porringer made in 1671 from the reign of Charles II was a highlight for me.  The privilege of being able to handle and examine a piece that has survived over 300 years is what makes this career worthwhile.

What has been your greatest accomplishment in your career/personal life?
I owned my own bookshop successfully for three years and that gave me great joy, as I love reading and dealing with customers.  However, being trained by Stephan Welz & Co. and becoming head of the Silver Department has definitely been my greatest accomplishment.

What would you like to achieve in your career?
I have always had a deep love for history and archeology, so my aim is to keep learning and growing in this broad field.  No matter how experienced one is, there is still much to learn and I am currently being trained by Anton Welz to perform valuations on antique furniture.

How much has Stephan Welz & Co. changed over the years?
When I first worked for the company, we used to take photographs of items, have them developed at a pharmacy and then post them to Sotheby’s in London for enquiry. It sometimes took 3 to 6 months to receive a reply.  We also did all our research from reference books and catalogues, but now with the internet, everything has changed quite dramatically.  There is an enormous amount of reference work available online which is sometimes helpful, but one has to be cautious, as not all information on the internet is accurate and I still find myself referring back to the books published by experts and collectors in the field.

What is your favourite part of your job?
The research of unusual items is the most enjoyable part, as well as doing well at auction for my clients.  Many of our clients are elderly people who have to scale down to move into retirement homes and they have entrusted us with their valuable possessions.  It’s exciting to call them after the auction and inform them that their piece has achieved a high price.

Do you have any hobbies?
I love reading and researching history.  With the advance of scientific tools, archeologists keep finding new and interesting sites, so I try to keep up to date with the new findings.

What has been the most important thing for you in your career?
Over the years I have learnt that making a mistake, owning up to it and addressing the issue in a mature manner, is challenging and scary, but is certainly not the end of the world.  I’ve come to believe that running from problems or avoiding them is part of the growing process, but at some stage one realizes that taking responsibility makes one wiser and stronger.  This in turn makes one more confident and yet ironically, more humble at the same time.

What do you think makes Stephan Welz & Co. so great?
The company has a long history of providing expertise and excellent service to clients, who in many cases have quite an emotional connection with the antiques they need to auction.  Taking the time to build up levels of trust and treating clients with respect and understanding has given Stephan Welz & Co. a reputation for professionalism which is so important.  Especially when one is dealing with a client who has to finally “let go” of a piece that may have been in their family for generations.

What message do you have for others who wish to enter the art industry?
Be humble, be willing to learn and spend your time reading/researching what you are passionate about.  Approach galleries and reputable auction houses who are willing to take on interns and learn from collectors and experts you come into contact with.  In many instances, I have learnt more from collectors and dealers than any amount of research or the internet can provide.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I would like to become more proficient in valuing antique furniture.  However, it does take time to build up knowledge and experience so that one has enough credibility in the market place.  Hopefully in five years’ time I will have that!

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