The owner of the big blue brooch lets out an almighty gasp. She’s standing opposite the valuer on Antiques Roadshow, and he’s just relayed the shocking truth about her precious family heirloom. Before coming on the show, the lady had been told by various jewelers that her glistening accessory was worthless. They couldn’t have been more wrong.
Understandably, when the lady presented her brooch to Antiques Roadshow expert John Benjamin, she had very low expectations.
Other jewelers had told her that the accessory, known as the "big, blue blob," was nothing more than a piece of costume jewelry and that the big stone in the middle was, in fact, stained glass.
The lady even went as far as to say that these jewelers had been quite rude to her and her partner. Some alleged the diamonds were fake, while others claimed they were real — though not high-quality.
So, what exactly was the truth?
You can see why the brooch became known as the "big, blue blob." At the center of it is a large cushion-shaped blue jewel.
And if you didn't have the proper knowledge, it would perhaps be easy to assume the eye-catching gem was merely a well-made imitation — no way near as valuable as the real thing. But that's where John came in.
Oh, yes, if anyone could give this woman an accurate valuation, it was John. Having left school at just 17 years old, he’d served a four-year apprenticeship at an antique jewelry shop.
From there, his career soared. And he ultimately became the International Director of Jewelry at Phillips Fine Art Auctioneers. The man knows his stuff — and this brooch would be no exception.
It meant a lot to the woman that someone was finally taking her and the brooch seriously. To the owner, the accessory was a precious family heirloom handed down from her grandmother.
And it had played an important role in her own life, too.
The lady’s father gave her the brooch to wear on her wedding day — as her something blue. And so the possibility that it was merely a hunk of junk would no doubt be soul-destroying.
As it turned out, though, she was right to get a second opinion.
After taking a look, John explained that the brooch's style was quite "ordinary." The shiny blue cushion-like stone in the middle was surrounded by smaller white ones — a fairly conventional pattern.
But, as John explained, appearances can be deceiving...
As John began examining the brooch, he couldn't get over the size of the central gem. "The stone in the middle is an absolutely enormous sapphire," he told the anxious woman.
And she remained speechless as the expert valuer proceeded to reveal his findings.
Plenty of people own brooches that feature precious jewels such as sapphires, but it’s unlikely theirs is as big as this one. In his expert opinion, John believed the sapphire weighed between 25 and 30 carats.
"In the world of gemstones, that’s quite big actually," a flabbergasted John explained. But then he took a closer look.
By doing this, he could offer a pretty good idea of where it came from. "It comes from Ceylon, which is, of course, Sri Lanka today.
Ceylon sapphires are typically this very bright cornflower-blue color." But what about the rest of the brooch?
While some other jewelers told this lady that the white stones around the outside were made from paste, John confirmed they were natural diamonds. Not only that, but all the gemstones were, he explained, mounted in gold and set in silver.
"It's an absolute screamer," said John. The lady laughed nervously, clearly stunned and perhaps a little smug. And then there were the other details to take in, too.
The brooch may have been in the lady's family for a few generations, but she had no idea how old it actually was. "Well the brooch itself was made about the mid to the end of the 19th century so it is about 130 to 140 years old," John revealed to the woman in front of a stunned crowd.
That meant it was around long before her grandmother! Finally, the time had come to reveal the brooch's value.
"So, if I were to say that whoever these jewelers were, they were talking absolute rubbish, would you be happy to hear that?" John asked. Laughing, the woman said, "I would."
And then John went ahead and told her the actual value of her precious family heirloom.
“If I were to take such an item of jewelry and consign it to an auction, I would expect it to make between £40,000 to £50,000,” John admitted. Understandably, the lady was lost for words!
But after a moment, she managed to sputter out a response.
The owner of the brooch seemed to be shell-shocked upon hearing John's revelation. "Oh my word, I don't want to swear.
Blooming heck!" she exclaimed. "Blooming heck indeed, it's an absolute beauty. What else can I say about it? It's fabulous," John agreed. But the brooch's beauty wasn't the only thing that stood out about the precious heirloom.
Then, the expert dropped another truth bomb on the stunned brooch owner. "I've never seen a sapphire of this size ever brought onto the Antiques Roadshow," he said, "this is a real first time for me."
And considering that John had worked with the show since 1991, that was saying something. Still, there was another heirloom that would prove to be even more valuable — and the granddaughter who brought it in had spent years thinking it was completely worthless.
The jaw-dropping piece stands out among the treasures of Antiques Roadshow history for a special reason. Rose’s grandmother passed down the artwork, and nobody ever paid much attention to it.
But, as she remembered, the print of a Native American tribe leisurely walking down a mountainside “always hung right above [my grandmother’s] bed.” So for years, it went largely unnoticed — until Rose brought it to the Roadshow, where it left the appraiser at a loss for words.
So, why did Rose’s grandmother attach such sentimental value to what seemed to be a reproduction of an ordinary painting?
Even Rose wasn’t sure where the piece came from or why her grandmother loved it so much, but she was able to come up with a theory — albeit an unusual one.
“Her dad, I’m guessing, would’ve given it to her after she spent the summer at a dude ranch when she was 19,” Rose suggested. Based on family history, she guessed that her grandma got the print sometime in the 1940s.
There was also a date on the painting, but Rose was hesitant to investigate.
She wasn't even sure if the work was a painting or a reproduction. Rose couldn't have known it then, but the difference in value of a painting compared to a print could have been thousands of dollars — perhaps more.
Rose had always assumed it wasn't an original, but a nerve-racking incident planted a seed of doubt in her mind.
“When I got [the print] there was a mosquito underneath the glass,” Rose told Meredith Hilferty, an Antiques Roadshow master appraiser.
“So I took it out to the front yard and I opened it up.” Face to face with the print for the first time, Rose couldn’t help but notice something odd about the piece of art.
Rose intended to bring the print with her to college to honor her grandmother's wishes. But something else caught her eye as soon as she brushed away the mosquito.
“It scared me a little,” she told Hilferty. “I closed it back up immediately.”
She noticed small, deliberate brushstrokes — and they looked genuine. With a jolt, Rose realized that the print wasn’t going with her to college.
Instead, it had to go to an Antiques Roadshow appraiser. She needed to know once and for all whether what she’d seen was authentic. In the meantime, Rose did some research on her own.
“It looked like it might be real,” Rose told Hilferty of the print/painting. With this in mind, Rose remembered a critical piece of information: her family had gotten the artwork appraised before — twice.
But each time, they had walked away with a decidedly disappointing number.
“In 1998 it was appraised as a print at $200,” Rose recalled. “In 2004, it was appraised at $250.”
All her life, Rose had assumed that her grandmother’s favorite work of art was equal to the price of a cheap suit. But after she saw the print — or painting? — up close, she knew she had to do some googling.
It helped that the artist wrote the date and his name on the back of the painting: “1892, H.F. Farny.”
Rose was pleasantly surprised when she researched the name and date. Farny had been met with quite a bit of acclaim in the latter half of the 1800s, and his admirers included the likes of Theodore Roosevelt.
“Farny, the nation owes you a great debt,” Roosevelt once said to the painter. “It does not realize it now but it will someday.
You are preserving for future generations phases of American history that are rapidly passing away.” As she continued her research, Rose couldn’t help but wonder if she was a part of that “future generation."
The piece had already been valuable to Rose for sentimental reasons, but now she had potentially thousands of reasons to get the painting appraised. She couldn’t get the artwork’s rich history out of her mind, either.
Farny, on a quest for inspiration, had found it in the American Midwest.
The French-born artist once said, “The plains, the buttes, the whole country, and its people are fuller of material for the artist than any country in Europe.” Farny was fascinated by Native Americans, so much so that he followed them in their travels.
“He has associations with the Sioux tribe,” Rose excitedly told Hilferty.
And that wasn’t all Rose discovered about Farny’s passion for Native American life. “They actually ‘adopted’ him,” she said.
Rose pointed out the symbol, a small dot, under Farny’s name. “They gave him a cipher, ‘Longboots.'” That was the end of Rose's knowledge, but thankfully, Hilferty was able to fill in some of the blanks.
First off, Hilferty confirmed Rose’s suspicion that the piece was, in fact, an original painting. “This piece is really interesting,” she began.
“It’s a dense group of figures, which is very desirable in [Farny’s] work.” Already, things were looking good for Rose and her grandmother’s prized possession, but Hilferty wasn’t done listing the piece’s winning qualities.
“1890 is around when we start seeing some of his very best paintings,” she said. The fact that this artwork was inscribed with the date “1892” meant that Rose had a special piece of history in her hands.
The best part of the art, according to Hilferty, was the unique way in which Farny depicted Native American life.
“He represented the Native Americans in a very peaceful, tranquil way,” Hilferty noted. “He didn’t ever really bring conflict into his work as some of the other artists from that time did.”
This fact alone gives the painting a newfound layer of meaning. It was a symbol of peace, not of hostility, which was rare for that time period.
History aside, of course, Rose still had her ultimate question: how much was the painting worth? “If we were going to put this in an auction today, I would suggest an estimate of $200,000 to $300,000.”
The shock on Rose’s face when she heard the staggering estimate was priceless!
Rose and her family had believed that the painting — which they originally thought was a mere replica! — was worth no more than $250.
The revelation that it was in fact worth a small fortune left Rose speechless. Fighting tears, she asked Hilferty, “So I can’t hang it up?”
Anyone in such an unusual situation would have had similar concerns. Surely such a valuable piece of art shouldn’t go back to hanging on the wall above Rose's bed, right?
“So, I’ll keep it away from my dog,” Rose joked. But she was also weighing a big decision.
With hundreds of thousands of dollars hanging in the balance, Rose had a choice to make: keep the painting in the family as her grandmother intended, or sell it for a potentially life-changing sum of money?
Nobody could figure out the right answer but her.
Rose said she needed more time to consider what to do with her precious heirloom, but we'd be surprised if she didn't at least look into selling the valuable painting. The Antiques Roadshow team are usually experts at spotting diamonds in the rough, and they certainly didn't miss the mark with Rose.
However, there is much more that goes on at the Roadshow than what actually makes it on TV.
Turns out that appraisers do more than just value antiques. They also have to persuade producers that their favorite items or favorite owners are worthy of making it onto your screens.
That’s right: in something of an outlier in the reality TV genre, there’s no-one behind the scenes trying to create a story. What you see on screen is exactly how it played out in real life.
If you’re planning on getting famous via an appearance on Antiques Roadshow you might want to rethink your plan. Collector’s Weekly magazine reports that only 0.2 percent of people who attempt to get tickets for each episode end up on-air.
That essentially means you’ve got more chance of getting accepted into an Ivy League university!
So what’s to stop the appraisers from undervaluing an item and then buying it themselves for a nice tidy profit? Well, apart from any self-imposed moral and ethical codes, the show’s experts are strictly forbidden by producers to carry out such sneaky tactics.
In fact, as per magazine Country Living, they can’t even give their business cards out to anyone they meet during filming.
You might expect that an item worth as much as $500,000 would automatically be given top billing in its respective episode. But turns out that even this lofty valuation can’t provide guaranteed screentime.
Producers have reportedly decided against showing several paintings worth such a sum because they didn’t have an intriguing backstory.
The Antiques Roadshow that appears on PBS in the States has been on air since 1997. An impressive length of time, for sure.
But that’s nothing compared to the British original, which debuted on the BBC way back in 1979! And like its Stateside equivalent, it’s still going strong today.
This is the kind of Antiques Roadshow fact that may get you heading for the nearest garage sale. One New Jersey native no doubt already thought she’d got a bargain when she picked up a table at one for just $25.
But after getting it appraised it on the show the item went to auction at Sotheby’s, where it fetched an astonishing $500,000!
One lucky Oklahoma native no doubt felt he’d won the lottery in 2011 when he visited Antiques Roadshow with his most prized possessions in tow. The man in question brought a set of items that appraiser Lark Mason claimed could attract up to $1.5 million if put up for auction.
So what were these record-breaking antiques? Perhaps surprisingly, it was an array of Chinese cups hailing from the 18th century which had been made from the horns of rhinoceroses.
This is disappointing news if you’re hoping to make a fortune from an old family bible lying around: it’s probably not even worth the paper on which it’s printed. Apparently the bible is the most common item brought to get appraised.
But with the majority mass-produced toward the late 19th century, they are of little value.
Not every person who turns up with an antique that’s been passed through the generations necessarily wants to be seen on television. Perhaps they’re camera-shy or who knows, maybe they’re under witness protection?
Luckily, producers give visitors the chance to opt out of getting beamed into millions of viewers’ homes.
If you’re not one of the lucky 0.2 percent of people applying for tickets who actually make it onto the program, all is still not lost. If you do manage to get access to an Antiques Roadshow being filmed then you’re guaranteed to get up to two items appraised.
And even better, each valuation is entirely free!
You might wonder how on Earth the appraisers manage to reel off so much information about every item with which they come into contact. Well, as per website Mental Floss, although they still use their years of experience and industry knowledge to give an authoritative valuation, experts are also allowed a little research time.
Yes, they can be given anything up to 30 minutes to swot up on a particular antique before the cameras start rolling.
Antiques Roadshow’s team of appraisers certainly aren’t in it for the money. Even the most experienced doesn’t receive a single cent for their work on the show and they have to pay for their own travel themselves, too.
Apparently the screentime alone is enough compensation. Well, that and the breakfast that they can enjoy for free.
Ever wondered why you never see anyone kitted out in the latest Adidas or Hugo Boss on an episode of Antiques Roadshow? Well, apart from the fact that its demographic is skewed towards less youthful fashion brands, the show forbids anyone from wearing items adorned with logos.
So if you’re looking to get on TV while having your family heirlooms valued then plain is king.
If you’re worrying about how you’ll get your antique grand piano or armoire to the venue when Antiques Roadshow comes to town, worry no more. The show’s crew members will help transport any items that won’t fit in the average automobile, as long as they’re deemed worthy of screentime and no further than 60 miles from the taping.
Those ticket-holders wanting their super-size antiques valued must first send photos to producers, who will assess whether it’s worth the hassle.
Even Antiques Roadshow’s trusted appraisers can have an off-day. In 2016 Stephen Fletcher valued a ceramic at up to $50,000, believing it was a collectible that hailed from the late 1900s.
It had, in fact, been made during a 1970s art project at an Oregon high school. Its estimated value subsequently nosedived to around $3,000.
Who’s for a slice of decaying wedding cake with mummified raisins? That’s what one visitor brought to Antiques Roadshow in 2015.
Of course, this was no ordinary wedding cake. It had been baked for Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip way back in 1947. And the guest, whose grandfather had served in the Guard of Honor during the celebrations, discovered that it was worth approximately $1,500!
As you’d expect there are certain items that Antiques Roadshow appraisers won’t touch with a bargepole. As per Mental Floss, if you’re looking to get anything hazardous, such as explosives and ammunition, valued then you’ll have to look elsewhere.
Coins, stamps, fossils, stock certificates, and automobiles are just a few of the other no-go areas.
This is one of those rare cases where you’d want to be followed home by the cops. Yes, according to Country Living, if you’re lucky enough to get an item appraised at a life-changing price, you have the option of a police escort as a safety precaution.
And even if your valuation is more modest, you can still ask to be walked to your car by a security guard.
Antiques Roadshow’s reputation was brought into disrepute during its very first American season thanks to an appraiser who wasn’t all he seemed. Newspaper The Boston Herald told how Russ Pritchard had claimed on camera that one particular antique sword was worth $35,000.
But it turns out that the man who brought it in, Stephen Sadtler, was a high-school pal who wasn’t even the item’s owner.
In recent years Antiques Roadshow has left the confines of convention centers and branched out into historic places such as Louisville’s Churchill Downs and Sarasota’s Ca’ d’Zan. But despite inviting 2,500 people to descend upon such venues, the show still manages to leave them in just as good a state as when they arrived.
Marsha Bemko, an executive producer, related to website Reality Blurred how she was once told by one particular location rep that the show’s crew was “much more organized than the FBI.”
Forget Jackass. The original pranksters were the two young cousins who in 1917 fooled the whole world into thinking fairies existed.
Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths used hatpins, paper cut-outs, and a camera to produce ‘photo evidence’ of the mythical creatures. But they only admitted to the hoax six decades later. Frances’ granddaughter and daughter later brought the snaps, and the camera given to the girls by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, on Antiques Roadshow. And they were valued at $40,000!
In 2013 a Thames Valley Police Museum curator brought in a Monopoly board that had seen better days to be appraised. And it turns out that the item had been a piece of evidence during the Great Train Robbery Trial a half-century earlier.
Apparently the thieves played Monopoly with the money that they’d thieved! But appraiser George Archdale only valued it at about $300, arguing that it felt “wrong for money to be made from a crime.”
Antiques Roadshow’s team of experts certainly put the work in whenever they hit a new town. The BBC version, for example, will have its appraisers look at up to 20,000 different items during filming.
Of course, only 50 on average will be captured on camera for experts to expound upon.
In among all the obvious hazardous items on the show’s banned list there’s one that takes a little more explanation: glass fire extinguishers, also known as glass fire grenades. Back in the 19th century these were thrown onto fires in the belief that the carbon tetrachloride inside would extinguish the flames.
Of course, this chemical is also highly toxic!
Antiques Roadshow is proof that it isn’t always easy to spot a fake from the real thing. In 2016 Wes Cowan appraised a box apparently hand-painted by Jacob Weber, a notable folk artist from Pennsylvania, as authentic.
But after closer inspection of everything from its hinges to its hasp another expert, Patrick Bell, contradicted him. The item was still valued at around $150, though.
You might think that a pot is a relatively innocuous item to bring to Antiques Roadshow. But the type that one woman tried to get valued in 2013 could have landed her in trouble with the law.
The Anasazi pot in question was said to have breached the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, which made the ownership of such artifacts illegal.
With thousands of hopeful visitors descending upon each Antiques Roadshow event it’s little surprise to learn that the show limits the amount of items each individual can bring. Ticket-holders are allowed to try their luck with just two antiques.
But collections of similarly-themed items are also deemed acceptable.
“Go big or go home” appears to be the general advice from producers if you want to end up in an episode’s final edit. Guests are encouraged to act as visibly and audibly surprised as possible if their item is valued at a particularly high price.
Opt for the cool as a cucumber approach and no matter how much your treasure is worth, you’re likely to be left on the cutting-room floor.
So we know that the Chinese cups made from rhinoceros horns were the highest-valued items ever to make it to screen. But what about the record price for an unaired antique?
Well, that honor goes to the mystery man who had a million-dollar collection of Presidential autographs. The owner, whose treasure trove included the signatures of Franklin Roosevelt and George Washington, didn’t want to be identified and so his appraisal was left out of the edit.
You don’t have to be from the United States or United Kingdom to get your cherished heirlooms valued by Antiques Roadshow. The format has also been purchased by several other countries including Belgium, Finland, Australia, and Sweden.
That last version has actually been on air five years longer than the American version.
BBC newsreader Fiona Bruce has been presenting the British version of Antiques Roadshow since 2008. And she obviously knows her stuff.
During the filming of one particular episode Bruce also took on the role of appraiser when she expressed an inkling that a particular painting brought in by a vicar was a Van Dyck. The star’s instincts proved correct following some expert analysis.
Who says that Antiques Roadshow can’t keep up with the times? Although the majority of paintings brought in are of a historical nature, British appraiser Rupert Mass once got to value a piece of art created by the very modern Banksy.
The graffiti artist had donated one of his works to a local boys club. After it was shown on the BBC, the work was bought by a private collector for roughly $500,000.
Sometimes it’s the smallest things that can inspire the biggest ideas. For example, one episode of the British Antiques Roadshow filmed at Althorp saw a guest bring in a small painting discovered at a garbage dump.
Appraiser Philip Mould was so interested in whether the item was authentic that the BBC decided to launch a spinoff show, Fake or Fortune?
Leslie and Leigh Keno, two of Antiques Roadshow’s most popular appraisers, found themselves at the center of an improper bidding scandal in 2016. The twins were accused of betting against one another at two auction houses to boost the sale prices of various items and then failing to make the winning payments.
Although a lawsuit was filed against the pair they still managed to keep their jobs on the PBS show.
Mark L. Walberg may almost share a name with a Hollywood star.
But audiences don’t appear to find him as entertaining as the Boogie Nights lead. Well, certainly not his historical segments on Antiques Roadshow, anyway. The one-time on-screen host was relegated to narrator after it was discovered that audiences were switching off in their droves for his pieces to camera.
He might be better known as a rapper, producer, and all-round motormouth, but Kanye West is a gifted artist, too, as proven by Antiques Roadshow. One particular episode saw a guest bring in a portfolio of the star’s artwork created in his high-school years.
Appraiser Laura Woolley was impressed by what she saw, describing the work as “really exceptionally well done.” She went on to offer a valuation of up to $23,000.
Arthur Negus presented the original Antiques Roadshow in the U.K. for four years before leaving in 1983.
And three decades later his daughter Anne popped up on the show, too, but as a guest! Yes, Arthur’s offspring visited the set to get a price for a family bible that was traced all the way back to the 18th century.
You might wonder what happens to the valuable items once they have been priced. Well, it turns out that on the majority of occasions, pretty much nothing at all.
Producer Marsha Bemko told website of magazine The Atlantic that more than 90 percent of owners decided to keep hold of their antiques. The valuation given is often more useful as an insurance tool than a selling-price guide.
You wouldn’t expect the classical music that graces the U.K. Antiques Roadshow’s opening credits to spawn a viral hit.
But that’s exactly what happened in 2021 when TikTok duo @sharoniskaren uploaded a clip of themselves performing a very modern dance routine to the stately theme. The pair had previously worked their magic with the music to Strictly Come Dancing and The Office.