A COLLECTION of gold boxes that hadn’t seen the light of day for 200 years, a charming collection of novelty silver animals, a good quality spoon collection and plenty else in between all contributed to the highest total ever seen for a silver sale at Bonhams Bond Street on July 2.
Of the 333 lots on offer, 238 sold (72 per cent) for a sum of
£1.15m. This was the first time they had broken the £1m mark and
was also higher than any silver sale staged under the Phillips
Bonhams' silver specialist Rupert Slingsby said that private
collectors and the trade came out in force and identified at least
one new private collector on the books.
The sale started with a collection of gold boxes and objects of
vertu from Drummuir Estate, Keith, Banffshire. It was put together
in the early 19th century by John Duff (1772-1836), who was a Scot
by birth but much preferred the attractions of the Continent. When
he died without an heir the collection passed to his brother, who
managed the estate, and was subsequently passed down through the
Drummuir is still in private hands, but the boxes were never
really liked or displayed, so when vertu specialist Michael
Moorcroft was invited to look at them, he found an almost entirely
intact suitcase full of boxes in exceptional condition, many still
in their original leather and shagreen carrying cases.
Normally, this sort of thing would have been catalogued or
published, but having never been seen before, they attracted strong
interest from the London trade, European privates and some Russian
collectors. All but two of the 27 sold, contributing £220,080 to
"The prices we saw were what you would have expected as
retail five or ten years ago," said Mr Moorcroft. "There are a few
people that dominate buying, because you still have to pay
stratospheric prices in this market, but the buying base is
certainly larger now than it was a decade ago. There is a lot more
Above: a Gilbert Marks presentation punch bowl that sold for
£43,000 at Bonhams.
The most sought-after was a Louis XVI circular gold example,
inset on the top with a panel of forest agate in brown, mustard and
cream, with bead borders. Made in 1781-3, it was signed Roucel
orfe du Roy A Paris for the prolific maker Louis
It had later recense marks for 1809 and 1819 and Mr Moorcroft
said the base, made of solid agate in a bowl shape, was very
unusual. It fetched £38,000 from a European collector.
The same collector purchased a 3in (7.6cm) long rectangular
French First Republic example by Adrien-Jean- Maximilien Vachette,
Paris 1789, with Vachette's pre-Revolutionary maker's mark. It was
also mounted with a forest agate panel with a fluted and guilloche
frame and it fetched £34,000.
In some cases the condition was so immaculate the boxes looked
new, like the 3in (7.3cm) long French First Republic Palais Royal
gold-mounted mother-of-pearl example, intricately decorated with
gold and shell floral panels, from Paris 1798-1809. This helped it
to a strong double-estimate bid of £10,000 despite the unknown
The auction also included a 23-lot selection of spoons
comprising the second tranche of the Quernmore Collection, the
first part of which was offered at a different auctioneer years
ago. Largely put together in the late 1990s, 19 of the items found
The highlight was a Henry VIII silver apostle spoon that the
vendor had purchased from David Lay of Penzance in November 1995
for £17,000. The 7in (18cm) long spoon dates from 1515 and has a
nimbus formed as a Tudor rose and a gilded finial modelled as St
Matthias with an axe in his right hand.
It was probably one from a set of 12 or 13 - another of the same
date has been recorded, with an identical nimbus and figure, but
instead holding a Fuller's bat, the emblem of St James the Less,
but its present whereabouts are unknown.
This example was guided at £20,000-25,000 but its early date and
rarity prompted a member of the London trade to bid a winning
£28,000 on the phone.
Another collection comprised 20 lots of novelty silver animals,
most of which were bought from Garrard's in the 1980s, which proved
predictably popular and sold out bar two lots. "It was such a nice
collection, and one like it hasn't come up for a long time. We had
a lot of private interest, and overall it was estimated at £90,000
but ended up making £170,000," said Mr Slingsby.
The star was a George IV silver gilt 41/2in (11.5cm) high
mustard pot and spoon by John Bridge, London 1824, stamped
Rundell Bridge Et Rundell Aurifices Regis Londini. It was
modelled as a monkey standing over a barrel and laughing. Bonhams
had estimated it at £6000-8000 but it was knocked down at £22,000
to the trade.
As usual, primates dominated. Another popular lot was a
three-piece Victorian silver and silver-gilt condiment set, the 4in
(10cm) high mustard pot modelled as a monkey sitting cross-legged
with a pipe in his mouth, offered together with two smaller pepper
pots of smaller monkeys holding snuffboxes. They all had glass eyes
and were wearing oriental dress with different hats, and came in
their original case. Again they were competed past estimate to
The highpoint of the sale was not from one of the private
collections but had been entered by a private individual. It was an
8in (21cm) high, 67oz Arts and Crafts silver punch bowl chased with
salmon, made by Gilbert Marks, London, 1897. It was made for
presentation, hence the engraving on the interior: Solent, One
design Class Special Prize, Presented by Commodore H R H The Prince
of Wales, Cowes, August 5th 1898, won by Captain J D Barry's
Aside from its usability and attractiveness, Mr Slingsby said
work by Marks is rare, and it quadrupled expectations when it sold
to an anonymous buyer at £43,000.
The buyer's premium was 20/12%.