An Interview with Kelly Keating, Professional Appraiser in New York City

In the coming months, CCC is hoping to interview some of the bright minds in antiques and silver collecting for the blog. In this inaugural interview, we sat down with Kelly Keating, the owner of The Antique Flâneur, and an accredited member of the Appraisers Association of America and a silver and fine antiques appraiser in New York City.  he has a retail location at The Antique Flâneur.


Nate: Hi Kelly, thanks for taking time out of your schedule with clients to do an interview with CCC. We've gotten to know one another over the last few years because we're both

1960's West German white porcelain vases
(courtesy Keating Collection)
silver enthusiasts. As people in the industry go, you've got quite a formal background in antiques and appraising. Can you tell the readers a little about yourself and what you love
about serving your clients in the business?

Kelly: My family moved to New Jersey when I was 7 and there they had something- grand estate sales that they had not had in Brooklyn. My mother and I loved to go to these sales which took place these grand old New Jersey houses. This activity is where my love of antiques began. My stylish mother had a good eye for pieces even if she did not know the what or why and that impressed me. I started to collect English china dogs at these sales. I enjoyed the hunt with my mother.

At college I fell in love with art history earning a BA and then I received an MA in art history here in the New York City at Hunter College. I continued onto a PhD program here in the city as well which I did not complete. I then worked with my mother in her floral design business for 17 years where we often used antique vessels and containers for arrangements which I would source. Along the way I met my friend Joanne who had completed the Appraisal Studies Program at NYU and I was very intrigued. She introduced me to a superb appraiser named Louise Devenish and I became her assistant on appraisals in 2010 while I completed the appraisal program which I finished in 2014. I also opened my own business, The Antique Flâneur, in 2010 sourcing antiques for interior designers and private clients, doing consignments and then adding appraisals when I completed my certificate in appraising in 4 years later. My art history background has been invaluable in appraising and my study of antique silver and other items. It gave a vocabulary to describe and categorize items: Neoclassical, Rococo, Arts & Crafts, et cetera.

Every appraisal I have done turns up something surprising and intriguing that the client was perhaps not even aware of it. A recent appraisal which at first seemed to be a bunch of 20th century good silver plate on copper yielded a George III Old Sheffield Plate neoclassical hot water urn and a circa 1900 Chinese Export silver dragon bowl. Every appraisal is a surprise and a learning experience and I love that about the practice.

Nate: I've often heard it said that it's "the finding and not the having". When you're not working with clients, do you feel that you're more of a hunter or a collector? What's your personal approach to antiquing?

Polar Bear Pitcher (courtesy Keating Collection)
Kelly: I am definitely more of a collector though I do enjoy the hunt whether online or in the real world. And I do constantly refine my collection by selling pieces and living in a small New York City apartment it is necessary too, but there are other pieces I would never sell. I have an unmarked 19th century American silver plate insulated water pitcher with a polar bear finial (I love polar bears) which I would never send on its way. I had it restored which was expensive, but worth it to me even though it is silver plate and not sterling.

Nate: You have a special passion for silver. What do you like about it and how does it make you feel to hold a fine piece of silver?

Kelly: Growing up we did not really have any family silver. From my grandmother there is a set of quite tall Reed & Barton silver plate candlesticks which I have always loved. Beautiful detail. Also there was a flatware set from her in the popular Coronation pattern by Oneida introduced in 1936. Silver in my house was about celebrating holidays and special occasions. The silver was “brought out” for these events. The idea of special occasion silver flatware or good china has fallen much by the wayside these days which I think is a shame.

Nate: There are so many styles of silver and of course so many periods. This metal has been loved globally and has come to symbolize many things. Do you have a favorite style, origin, or period of silver?

Kelly: About 20 years ago I started collecting English Aesthetic Movement transferware and thought I needed some flatware to go with it to set my table. I learned then that English silver for the most part maintains certain forms and is cyclical and one might even say conservative, but that American silver in the 19th century adopted new styles such as the Japanese influence of the Aesthetic Movement and that began my love of American Aesthetic Movement silver plate. It is wonderful and even wacky at times.

Nate: New York City is a special place for antiques and I'm sure you've had the chance to make some exciting discoveries. Can you share a story about finding something exciting or meaningful?

Kelly: I used to go to the Garage Antique Flea Market on 25th Street for years, but it is closed now. That market had some good silver dealers and it is where I bought my first piece of sterling silver a late Gorham creamer and sugar in a fairly common pattern whose name escapes me. There is nothing exciting or remarkable about this creamer and sugar. They are simple, but have a lovely patina and I would never get rid of them because they were my first foray into silver before I knew much more than that Gorham was a good maker. And they are quite usable and look lovely on my small dining table.

Nate: You help your clients find decorative items as well. One of your offerings really stands out to me. This piece has a really unique design with very clean lines and it has fabulous patina. Can you tell us a little bit more about the little Marchak clock in your shop, The Antique Flâneur

Marchak Clock, Paris
Kelly: The wonderful Art Deco Marchak miniature clock only 1.5” tall is on consignment from a client in Queens. It is such an appealing little piece with an interesting story. The clock has a rectangular block case which is made of French .950 silver by the Parisian silversmith, Adolphe Frontin or his sons Henri and Robert.  The vanity clock is marked with the Minerva head for .950 silver and the Frontin mark in a diamond lozenge on the interior of the clock door which reveals its inner workings.  The dial of the miniature clock is marked J Marchak Paris. Joseph Abramovich Marchak was a young talented jeweler in Kiev in 1878 and then in Russia where he became a competitor of Faberge and was known as the Cartier of Kiev. 

His son, Alexander, born in 1890 came to Paris from Russia in 1920 after the Russian Revolution where he opened a jewelry store in the Rue de la Paix next to the Place Vendôme and the famous Hotel Ritz.

Nate: What are your hopes for the future with respect to your occupation in silver and antiques?

Kelly: Eventually I would like to be become a certified appraiser in silver, but I am not ready yet for that step. I need a few more years of experience. I would also like to increase the love and popularity of silver which has certainly waned over the last 15 years. That is why I started a silver discussion group and a silver sale group on Facebook.

Nate: Thank you, Kelly, for taking the time out to share your passion with us. One more question- You've been in the business for quite a few years professionally. What advice to you have for a young person who's just getting started?

Kelly: Thank you Nate, I really enjoyed your questions. Everything is not on the internet. Build a good silver library that you can refer to as you research pieces. Also, wherever you live, go see all the art and decorative art exhibitions you can.

If you want to become an appraiser, the Appraisers Association of America (AAA) in New York City now has a program to become an appraiser. They are a great organization for the profession and training.

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To read a bit more about Kelly or his services to the industry and clients, please see his website at The Antique Flâneur. His retail shop is The Antique Flâneur

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