Published: November 1, 2022
Family-owned businesses have long been a cornerstone of the antiques business; at Antiques and The Arts Weekly, we like to check in with the next generations as they mature and step into leadership positions at auction houses and galleries. A recent auction at Fontaine’s auction gallery in Pittsfield, Mass., saw John Fontaine’s children – Mia and John Fontaine III – busily engaged with clients so we wanted to take this opportunity to get to know them better.
Tell me and our readers a little bit about yourself? What do you like to do in your “off-hours,” or noteworthy things about yourself you’d like our readers to know?
(JF) Fontaine’s is very busy so there are not too many “off-hours.” It is a lifestyle and has become part of who I am as a person. I spend the free time I have taking my dog for walks, golfing, snowmobiling and skiing.
(MF) I am 28 years old. I have two daughters, a 7-year-old and a 1-year-old. I enjoy spending time with my family, hiking with my dogs, collecting and researching jewelry and gems, playing the guitar, cooking and reading.
What is your earliest memory of working with your family, at Fontaine’s?
(MF) My earliest memory of working with my family is holding up items on stage to be auctioned off. I loved being in front of the crowd and I used to sing for everyone after the auction was over.
(JF) There are two early memories I have from working with my family. The first and most important was going on “house calls” with my father. Spending time with him on the road at such a young age, meeting new people, going to new places and seeing a range of unique items cemented my interest in this business. The second memory I have was being a runner at the auctions. I always found this part exciting because I could stand next to my father auctioneering and handle the merchandise that was being sold.
What do you do at Fontaine’s? What’s your role there?
(JF) I am the head of the research team at Fontaine’s where the consigned items are vetted. My job, along with my team, is to process the items to decipher originals from copies, write descriptions and do condition reports so we are able to give realistic estimates based on originality, rarity and condition.
(MF) I am the director of the jewelry and watch department. As a GIA graduate, I grade and describe the jewelry taken on consignment, photograph the items, answer customer questions and assist with the phone bidding and online platforms on auction days.
What do you like most about working at Fontaine’s?
(MF) I enjoy working with my family every day. It’s very nice to have support from my family. We are all always there for each other and we work hard to make sure our business is successful.
(JF) The first thing is being fortunate enough to work with my family every day; we all work together and get along so well. The second thing is being able to see and handle the most unique items. I have the privilege to handle hundreds of items every week, which keeps every day interesting; you never know what may come through the door next.
Do you collect anything? If so, what do you collect, and why?
(JF) As of now, I am not a big collector. I have some carved furniture, bronze and marble sculptures, paintings and early Twentieth Century lighting, but I wouldn’t consider it collecting, it’s just my furnishings. My energy now goes to the business so maybe later in life I will become a collector.
(MF) I enjoy collecting jewelry and gems because most people, including myself, love to wear jewelry and I am intrigued by the variety and properties of gems.
Is there an item or work that you’ve handled at Fontaine’s that is particularly memorable?
(MF) The item that is most memorable to me is a 5.05-carat cut-cornered rectangular fancy light yellow diamond ring that we recently obtained from a collection in California. It is a very impressive ring with a VS1 clarity grade. We will be offering the collection for sale in our January 28, 2023, auction.
(JF) Two years ago, we received a Tiffany Studios Oriental Poppy chandelier on consignment. I have always had a special interest in Tiffany Studios items so seeing and handling a chandelier like this was a great experience.
According to Fontaine’s website, the company was founded 50 years ago. What does the next 50 years have in store for Fontaine’s?
(JF) My father founded Fontaine’s more than 50 years ago and I have been fortunate enough to work beside him for much of my life. As this business has constantly changed over the past 50 years, we have strived to change with it. The next 50 years, we intend to do the same, evolving with the industry, consistently growing and adapting to the changing market.
(MF) My father founded the business 50 years ago. I have always been amazed with the work he has done and enjoy working with him and learning from him. My brother and I plan to continue the business and expand our reach with new clientele to acquire rare and unique items for auction. We have a great selection of fine jewelry offered at our auctions and I hope to see more fine jewelry sold in the future. I’m confident the auctions will continue to be successful, and the business will continue for generations to come.
-Madelia Hickman Ring
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