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You don’t need me to tell you that the past couple of years have been challenging economically. You might expect this to have translated into something of a slump in demand in the rarefied world of top-end antique and fine art auctions, but you would be wrong.

The fact is that notwithstanding the financial squeeze which many of us are experiencing, those at the more affluent end of the scale have not been impacted anywhere near as much, and they are still spending their money.

Keys’ thrice-yearly Fine Sales, which as the name suggests feature the most select and highest-quality items, have seen buoyant demand from bidders around the world, with very high sale rates and extremely healthy hammer prices. In fact, demand is outstripping supply at this end of the market.

We perhaps shouldn’t be surprised about this. At the time of writing, there are 239 properties for sale for £1 million or more in Norfolk; that is a lot of people who have money to spend not just on their homes, but on their interiors too.

So what is particularly in demand in the saleroom? The answer to that is essentially anything of quality. People who are lucky enough to be insulated from the prevailing economic climate want the best of everything, and they are prepared to pay for it.

Included in this are good quality pictures from all eras, including 20th century and contemporary art. This doesn’t necessarily mean the most trendy artists, it’s more about the absolute quality of the painting. It’s a bit like buying quality cloth rather than fashionable labels when shopping for clothes: as the saying goes, fashion is transitory, but style is permanent.

After several years in the doldrums, the market for antique furniture is now very much on the up, especially at the top end. People buying large, expensive homes need large, quality pieces. It is noticeable how the demand for good quality furniture has increased, even for mahogany other dark woods which were very much out of fashion not so many years ago.

Traditionally in times of economic strife, people look to put their money into gold and precious metals, and this time is no different. Our jewellery sales are booming, with our February sale seeing an almost unheard-of 100% sale rate. Prices for top-end pieces – both antique and modern – are very robust.

Other areas where there is plenty of demand at the quality end of the market include ceramics (especially big names such as Meissen, Sevres, Royal Worcester, Moorcroft and Lowestoft); glassware (there is particular demand for Lalique and Bohemian glass); and designer watches, both vintage and modern.

It is striking how quickly people have returned to in-person bidding in the saleroom. Whilst international bidders will always be attending online, our last few Fine Sales have seen the room full, both for individual collectors and dealers. With brisk bidding and strong hammer prices, it is clear that there are plenty of people who feel sufficiently financially confident to continue spending.

Keys is now accepting entries for its next Fine Sale, which takes place at the end of July. Full details at keysauctions.co.uk.

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· One of a pair of still lifes by Eloise Harriet Stannard which sold for £3,300 in Keys spring Fine Sale

(photo: Keys Fine Art Auctioneers)