James is an expert in examining and valuing stringed musical instruments. He has an MA and an MLitt in Mediaeval History, specialising in aesthetics. Although his degrees provide a useful background to his work, nothing can compare to handling and examining the instruments themselves. James has, on recent estimation, examined at least 500,000 violins and bows, and many thousands of violas and cellos.
James first started handling fine stringed instruments when he joined the Musical Instrument Department at Bonhams, London. He continued to gain experience in the stringed instrument world working for the prominent London dealer, Peter Biddulph, after which he ran Christie’s Music Department. James was a founding director of Brompton’s and left in 2012 to set up his own online auction business.
In establishing and running Amati, he uses his expert knowledge of stringed musical instruments, his in-depth experience of the auction world, and his understanding of the global nature of stringed instrument dealership.
James enjoys both the beauty and the excitement of the stringed instrument world. One influential day at the beginning of his career stands out: Two clients came into a Christie's valuation day with an instrument they had inherited. Safely held in a stunning W.E. Hill and Sons case, it was a G. B. Guadagnini cello, made in Parma, 1760, and worth a fortune. Unsurprisingly delighted with the valuation, the owners consigned it to auction. It was sold to Pieter Wispelwey, who still plays it. James and his future wife celebrated with dinner at La Poissonerie, sitting at the table next to the late Roger Moore.
James enjoys Italian food, cricket and good beer.