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Measuring 171/2in high and weighing 91/2oz, the syphon, which was one of the earliest of its type, bore the mark of John Harvey I, c.1750, and was allocated a speculatively modest estimate of £500-700, the specialists at CSK having never sold another example.

A similar syphon with a vacuum-inducing pump and tap to stem the flow of sediment-
contaminated wine is illustrated in Robin Butler & Gillian Walkling’s The Book of Wine Antiques, though that particular example has a central brace which appears to be lacking here.

“The syphon enables you to take the wine out of the bottle without disturbing it from the upright position,” explains Robin Butler, a Bristol-based dealer who specialises in wine-related antiques and who seems to have seen rather more of these devices than CSK’s
silver department.

“The estimate was absolutely absurd. Anyone who knows anything about these things would have realised that it was going to make at least £2000.” He described the final price of £3000 paid by the London silver trade, underbid by a collector, as “a good price for an interesting thing, but not excessive”.