Originally opened in 1873, Alexandra Palace was always intended to be ‘The Palace of the People.’ Nicknamed ‘Ally Pally’ (supposedly by Gracie Fields), the venue became, in 1936, the home of the world’s first ‘high-definition’ television service, operated by the BBC. Since then, it has hosted many world-famous events: everyone from ‘Led Zeppelin’ to ‘Songs of Praise’. From the ‘The 14 Hour Technicolor Dream’ in 1967, to the PDC World Darts Championship for the last 8 years – with just about everyone else in between. Now, four times a year, it is home to regular iacf Antique & Collectors Fairs, and – as any regular attendee knows – these events are always full of unique, antique treasures, the like of which you are unlikely to find anywhere else. Regularly attracting over 300 quality antiques dealers from around the UK, the striking setting makes this a perfect hunting ground for beautiful collectors’ pieces, ceramics, artwork, jewellery and much more.
One stand you will be lucky enough to see at the event, displaying items which – by anyone’s definition – really live up to the term ‘treasure’, is the stall exhibited by Carolina Valdés Vignoli.
What is the name of your business and what is your area of special interest?
My company is Carol Tresor. Its name is inspired by the fact that all the pieces in my collection are real “treasures”, discovered in the deep sea after being hidden for hundreds of years.
Carol Tresor specialises in a wide range of beautiful and high-quality pieces, including porcelain pottery, coins and a variety of utensils from historic shipwrecks. All of them are from official salvages and are sold with their corresponding provenance. Each piece is unique and handmade, so even though some of them may have similar patterns, no two are the same!
How long have you been involved in the trade?
I started in this field a few years ago, driven by curiosity and personal interest, just buying a few pieces for my own collection. However, I realised that it was possible to combine my passion for these objects with a business. Therefore, in 2017 I founded Carol Tresor as an online business, and in 2018 I also started to exhibit at antique fairs and markets.
How did you first get interested/involved?
I discovered the fascinating world of shipwrecks after receiving a small cosmetic box from the HOI AN HOARD (circa 15th Century) as a gift. It was love at first sight! I was amazed not only by its beauty, and the fact that it had been hidden under the sea for hundreds of years, but also, by the story of the shipwreck to which it belonged. Since then, my passion for shipwreck pieces began! I still cannot believe I have such a treasure at home, a morsel of the past, salvaged from the deep sea after hundreds and hundreds of years of being lost!
Where is a good place to go to find out more about these items?
As all the pieces that Carol Tresor deals with are from official salvages, it is possible to find information about these historic wrecks and its pieces online, in the official catalogues from the auction houses, and in books that have been written about each shipwreck.
A crucial issue that potential buyers should keep in mind when acquiring these objects is that each piece of legal shipwreck pottery should have a sticker indicating its provenance, which includes information on the shipwreck it came from, the auction house where it was offered, and the official inventory number from the government-approved salvage.
Do you have a favourite item in the collection?
As I mentioned previously, all pieces are unique and handmade, and I like all of them. It is difficult to choose a favourite one because they are all treasures!
However, a small cosmetic box from the HOI AN HOARD that was gifted to me (see above) is very special because it is the first shipwreck piece I ever had, and it marked the beginning of this wonderful journey! Not only that, I like its design so much, that I chose it for the company logo (the flower on the Carol Tresor logo is a copy from the pattern of this particular cosmetic box).
Are there other marine salvage items you are on the lookout for?
I am interested in any shipwreck-related items, and I am always searching for new treasures! For example, some of the new pieces I am adding to my collection are from shipwrecks discovered in the Rio de la Plata / River Plate, in South America. Since I am Uruguayan, I also like to have pieces salvaged from that part of the world! The new pieces included are silver coins, metallic jarlets, pottery, cutlery and other utensils from the wrecks.
What are your plans for the future?
In the future, I plan to continue growing Carol Tresor and to increase its presence in fairs and antique markets, bringing more exciting and interesting pieces for the visitors. The scope of the fairs is mainly to awaken the curiosity and interest of people in this fascinating world of history, adventure, and treasure!
Can you give us some details about some of the notable shipwrecks you have collected items from?
Year: Circa late15th century (same period as Henry VIII)
Auction: Butterfields – San Francisco, California, USA / October 2000
The Hoi An wreck was discovered in the early 1990s off the coast of Vietnam. The ship dates to the 15th Century, and its porcelain was very difficult to salvage due to the depth of 230 feet. The rare Vietnamese blue and white porcelain generated considerable excitement when it was auctioned at Butterfields in 2000.
Year: Circa 1725 (early 18th century)
Auction: Sotheby’s – Amsterdam, Netherlands / January – 2007
The porcelain cargo of the Ca Mau wreck was originally intended for the western market, but after an intense fire on board, the ship sank 90 miles off the coast of Canton. The porcelain finally reached the west in 2007, when it was auctioned to much acclaim at Sotheby’s Amsterdam.
Auction: Nagel – Stuttgart, Germany / November – 2000
The Tek Sing (“True Star”) was nicknamed the “Titanic of the East” due to the number of passengers on board, only some of whom survived. A huge quantity (350,000) of the ship’s cargo was salvaged in 1999 and came to auction in Stuttgart, Germany.
Auction: Christies – Amsterdam, Netherlands / April – 1986
The fine export porcelain of the Geldermalsen, originally destined for the Netherlands, went down with the rest of the ship 3rd January 1752. It was discovered on a reef by famous salvager Michael Hatcher and finally auctioned in Christies – Amsterdam in 1986.
How can people contact you for more information?
People interested in information can get in touch through:
Carolina Valdés Vignoli is originally from Uruguay and moved to the UK in 2014. Having an international trade and business background, she has always been passionate about other cultures, living and working in several different countries, using her knowledge of languages – Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and English. Since she discovered the fascinating world of shipwrecks (and the treasures some contain), she has started her own business based in London, and has developed an expertise in the field, trading locally and around the world.
The next Alexandra Palace Antiques & Collectors Fairs are on Sunday 2nd December and Sunday 17th February.
For more information: www.iacf.co.uk/alexandra-palace | 01636 702326 | email@example.com