Three Questions With an Alum: Daphne Lingon ‘88, Gemologist at Christie’s
When did you first become interested in jewelry?
I’m not exactly sure, but I remember during high school that I was always fascinated by jewelry and was always buying books about jewelry to read in my spare time or exploring the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair each summer to see what jewelers had to offer. It wasn’t so much about acquiring it as it was about seeing and experiencing it. Then, when I was a senior at Denison, I was deciding whether to go into nursing or gemology school, and my stepfather said, “Do what you love.” Thirty years later, that’s just what I’ve done. After college, I went to the GIA–the Gemological Institute of America—where I learned things like diamond grading, gem identification, and stone testing. I’ve used those skills throughout my 30 years at Christie’s in New York.
What’s a surprising part about your job?
Most people assume that auction houses are all about glamor and that we only deal with million-dollar diamonds or jewels. For me, there’s so much more to jewelry than the price or the estimates we give—it’s really about the beauty, the craftsmanship, the history, and the stories behind the pieces. Most of my time is spent advising individuals, families, and estates. Behind the scenes it’s the smaller stories that have meant the most to me: Recently a hairdresser sent in a brooch that was gifted to her by a decades-long client. It ended up being worth $30,000, which helped her afford her own long-term care. I suppose this is what touches me—when I can help someone or make a difference. Honestly, my job has given me a variety of opportunities and experiences that I could have never imagined.
How did Greenhills impact you?
One of my favorite teachers was Mrs. Dann, who was so supportive, helpful, and enthusiastic. Greenhills encouraged us to be independent thinkers but also taught us how to collaborate and work together. With the smaller classroom size, everyone had to learn how to get along and respect one another. Those skills easily transferred to my work at Christie’s—sure it’s a large, global company, but collaboration, respect, and listening really do matter. Ann Arbor and the Greenhills community are so diverse, and that’s helped me immensely dealing with people from all over the world.
Daphne Lingon is SVP, Head of Jewelry, Americas, at Christie’s Inc. She and her husband, Bryan, will be relocating to Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, just outside Charleston, next summer. She will continue as a consultant for Christie’s, but will also be launching her own jewelry consulting and appraisal company.