Cash was most definitely in the attic for a local builder when he started renovating a property in Lewes.
Among items he found in an old cardboard box “full of knick-knacks” was a rare piece from the House of Fabergé.
Though no bigger than a fingernail, the piece from the world-renowned Russian jewellery firm is worth a small fortune.
The builder, who preferred not to be named, was given the job of adding an extension to a newly-purchased house in the county town.
The buyers instructed him to dispose of a jumble of unwanted items in the loft.
Most of them ended up in a skip as junk, but he was intrigued by the contents of one battered box.
It contained what he at first thought was a marble. In fact it was a delicate egg-shaped pendant and sufficiently interesting for him to take it to an auction house for valuation.
A price of £150-£180 was given. He took the matter further by asking the advice of Vernon Ward at his recent ‘roadshow’ event of free valuations at The Half Moon, Plumpton.
The tiny pearl and enamel item, with a 14-carat gold tip, was unsigned but triggered something in the memory of the local antiques expert and he conducted exhaustive research.
It was rewarded with confirmation that the pendant dated from the early years of the 20th century and was retailed by Russian master Carl Fabergé. Vernon said it was made by one of his workmasters and worth a cool £700.
He said: “I had a gut feeling about this and was delighted to establish it was a genuine item in an area where there are a lot of reproductions – and fakes.
“Pendants like this were made for the Easter market and ladies wore them on bracelets.
“I did a lot of cross-referencing until I was 99 per cent sure it wasn’t a repro. Happily, a specialist colleague was able to add the final one per cent in identifying the little object.
“When I told my client just what he had unearthed he was over the moon.”
Now Vernon has found a buyer for the pendant, a collector who is happy to pay his estimate.
Vernon has been established as a recognised fine arts and antiques expert for more than 45 years.
The Vernon Ward Antique Roadshows make regular visits to Sussex venues, with free valuations, and private home visits and consultations can be arranged by appointment.