A pen for my aunt

Smart shoppers buy their Christmas presents at the Olympia Antiques Fair. By Charlotte Packer
If you are one of those organised people who not only manages to have your Christmas presents wrapped by the first of December, but tracks down unusual ones to boot, the chances are The Fine Art and Antiques Fair, at Olympia from Wednesday, needs no introduction. But if, like most of us, you leave it to the last minute, a trip to Olympia might make a pleasant change from tearing around the shops on Christmas Eve.

In the past couple of years, the November fair has taken on a distinctly festive feel. Dealers are waking up to the fact that while the fairs held in June and February attract specialist collectors, the winter event is drawing Christmas shoppers in ever increasing numbers. Consequently the items on offer, and their prices, reflect this.

Jewellery is a perennial favourite and prices range form the affordable to the unthinkable. Anthea A G Antiques (stand C11) has a selection of Scottish jewellery (Celtic crosses, buckles, brooches and dirks), which has become very collectable., though they are not exactly stocking fillers at pounds 200-pounds 700. Madeleine Popper (stand D30) is well known for her extraordinary cut steel jewellery. "If a chap comes in to buy an unusual present for his wife" she says, "I may suggest cut steel. I often find people come back to add to the collection." Expect to pay from pounds 40 to a few hundred.

Didier (stand D30) specialises in Art Nouveau jewellery. "If you have pounds 75 to spend," he says, "you can buy a silver pendant made for Liberty & Co with designs after Jessie M King, but if you have pounds 2,500 I have the most wonderful quirky cufflinks. And you'll get a lecture into the bargain."

If you're giving someone a fountain pen, it's worth knowing that for the price of the latest Mont Blanc, Malcolm Stevens (stand 34) will sell you something far more interesting, like a 1930s Eversharp pen and pencil set, complete with a Guaranteed Forever label. pounds 65 will get you a gold nibbed, 1950s Parker or Conway Stewart in full working order.

For difficult relatives, go to the antiquarian book dealers - they are bound to have at least one book, manuscript or pamphlet that will fit the bill. Simon Finch Rare Books (stand 29) is worth a visit just for a glimpse of the first editions of Emma and Middlemarch.

With prices starting under pounds 50, the print dealers are also worth investigating. At Elizabeth Harvey Lee (stand 83) pounds 50 will secure you a small, 20th- century wood engraving and pounds 100 will buy a 16th-century German woodcut.

For something a little more unusual take a look at the icons on Richardson & Kailas's stand. An 18th or 19th-century framed brass icon from Russia will cost about pounds 200. As with Didier you'll get more than bargained for, "I am very much addicted to the stories behind the icons," Mr Richardson admits.

Perhaps this is the best thing about buying from an antiques fair. On the whole you are buying from someone who is passionate about what they are selling, and whatever you choose you'll get a good anecdote to go with it.

The Fine Art and Antiques Fair, Olympia, London W14, 15-21 Nov. Wed 6pm-10pm, Thurs-Tues opens 11am, check information line for closing times: 0891 884544. Tickets: single pounds 10, double pounds 15.

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