Walking through the showrooms at the Oakridge Auction Gallery the day before a big sale is like entering a magnificent museum.
The almost complete silence belies the kinetic activity as the highly-trained team at Oakridge Auction Gallery watches over and assists clients, carefully retrieving and replacing items from the display cases. Those clients are meticulously examining ornate and colorful vases, urns, tapestries, scrolls and textiles as they relay information around the world by phone, laptops, and tablets. They tip the pieces over, hold them up to the light, shine flashlights on them – looking for clues; looking for flaws; looking for an edge.
“While we also handle fine and decorative art, jewelry, antiques, collectibles, and toys, the auction we currently have staged is specifically for Asian fine arts,” Senior Auction Specialist Erin-Marie Wallace said. “Within the next two days (September 8 and 9), we will be selling everything at auction. We have an elegant gallery where the live auction is hosted, and bidders register to bid in person and online. One of the most important components of our auctions is that we offer International bidding on several different online platforms; that allows us to reach 60 to 70 countries all over the world.”
Oakridge Auction Gallery has been in its Ashburn location for about two years. They receive items on consignment from around the world and, in turn, find buyers for those items from Lovettsville to London.
“We have an international auction house with a local foundation,” Wallace said. “That’s why I think we’re a Loudoun County gem. You walk in, and within this building, you have access to no fewer than eight in-house experts and we have a network of experts all over the world that we can rely on”.
Stephen Hansen is the design and marketing expert for Oakridge. He has been with the auction gallery since the beginning.
“We’ve been in business for about five years,” Hansen said. “We started with a small office in Tyson’s Corner and then we got a gallery space in Vienna and we were there for about two years. We moved to Ashburn about two years ago. Loudoun County is just a great community, being right next to an international airport and being right next to the nation’s capital.”
Hansen also stressed the advantage to Loudoun County residents of having an auction house with international clientele right in their neighborhood.
“You can bring an item in the door and we have experts on hand that can give you an auction estimate right there,” he said. “They can give you a range of what it would typically sell for, based on its current market value. Then, if you decide to consign with us, we can take it every step along the line. We do the photography, the marketing and then we place the item in a future auction where we know it will fair well.”
Wallace said Oakridge deals with buyers and sellers on a global basis, but it also handles clients on a much more personal level.
“A lot of our clients are 65 and older, they may be downsizing or are going through the belongings of a parent or family member who has passed,” Wallace said. “It’s often already a difficult time for them. It is important to have someone who is impartial and has the knowledge to walk through the house and explain, “This is what you pass to the family, this is what you send to auction, this is what you donate and this is what you can let go of.”
Wallace said those families are frequently appreciative of their advice as it is based on years of market experience and empathy for their clients’ individual situations.
“Clients are seeking our assistance to evaluate, educate and market their items and collections. We never use pressure because, ultimately, the items belong to them,” she said. “They don’t belong to us”.
Items which are accepted for one of Oakridge’s future auctions are individually researched and assessed for quality, condition, rarity and market value.
Wallace said they take the utmost care handling every object they handle, from a Chinese Ming dynasty vase to Aunt Emma’s diamond brooch.
“Many of these items have been in the family for seven or eight generations,” she said. “We have them for the shortest amount of time, and then they go on to the next family or the next story. It is our responsibility to make sure we properly photograph and describe every item we sell and additionally ensure the winning bidders receive their new treasures safely.”
Wallace said each auction is prepared and marketed well in advance of the actual sale dates. In-house marketing materials are prepared, and the items are meticulously presented live in their gallery and online via International bidding platforms so even international buyers know exactly what they are bidding on. There is a preview period both online and in person. Oakridge encourages bidders to come into the gallery and examine items in-person before the live auction but if they can’t attend the auction, online bidding is always an option. The online preview allows clients to bid without coming into the auction gallery. Wallace says, “The online platforms work really hard to make the bidder feel like they are in the room,” she said. “They can see how many bids have been placed on each item and where the bid will open at. It might open at $200 or $28,000, but nobody – not the auctioneer and not the bidders, have any idea what the top number is until the auctioneer says, ‘Sold!’”.
Wallace is one of two licensed auctioneers who take the block at Oakridge Auction Gallery on the day of the sale. She said neither auctioneer sounds stereotypical, “While we can do the fast-talking, we prefer not to because when you auction like that, your goal becomes; how quickly can I get through this auction, not how much due can I give each lot,” she said. “We slow it down because we are auctioning off things that are of such a high caliber that we need to give each lot and each bidder their due.
“When I say ‘sold,’ I have established a legal contract. That is a lot of responsibility, because when I say ‘sold,’ it is iron-clad and legal.”
Oakridge Auction Gallery offers complimentary walk-in evaluations from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Tuesday for fine and decorative art, Asian arts, jewelry, advertising, and toys. They also offer on-site and in-home evaluations by appointment.
“We are one of the few places where you can just walk in the door or pick up the phone and say, “Can you meet me in Centreville?’ and we will respond, “Absolutely, we will work out the arrangements.”
Oakridge Auction Gallery’s next scheduled live auction is Saturday, Oct. 27 and will begin at 10 a.m.
Preview is held Oct. 24 through 26 between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Oakridge Auction Gallery is at 44675 Cape Court, Suite 171 in Ashburn, Virginia 20147. For more information, visit oakridgeauctiongallery.com or call 703-291-1101.