November 19 was a very busy day for silver fanciers, obliged to make a decision about which of a trio of overlapping London sales they wished to attend in person. As well as King Sreet's main sale, there were more standard offerings at Christie’s South Kensington and Bonhams Knightsbridge (each 17.5/10% buyer’s premium).
Christie's South Kensington offered a 263-lot selection, Bonhams a larger 523-lot, all day gathering, but although there was a substantial difference in size, selling rates were around the same. But CSK's sale had higher-value individual pieces as is indicated by the fact that their sale totalled almost twice as much as Bonhams', despite being just over half the size. Both sales saw a mix of trade and private buying with the usual categories in demand: unusual, novelty pieces, those catering to niche collectors' fields or anything fresh to the market and realistically estimated.
Two lots of Sheffield-made Edwardian silver topped CSK's
gathering. One was a suite of six Corinthian column candlesticks, two topped by five branches to form 19in (48cm) high candelabra, marked for John Bodman Carrington and Hawksworth Eyre and Co, 1909 which sold for £8200. The other was a 161oz épergne of 1904 by James Dixon and Sons, which realised £7800, double an estimate set to allow for one of its swing-handled baskets being missing.
Following these at £6800 was an earlier entry, an 81/2in ( 21cm) high German silver-gilt cup fashioned as a nautilus shell engraved with strapwork with cupid finial and a figural stem, set on a turtle shaped base. With a poorly struck maker's mark, an Augsburg town mark and some repairs, Christie's had catalogued this cautiously as "apparently 17th century" with a modest £800-1200 estimate. The price suggests the room had rather more confidence in its 17th century date.
The bulk of the unsolds in this sale were concentrated in the more standard Georgian hollowares, including a 22-lot single-owner consignment, whose prospects were not improved by the five per cent VAT payable on the entire hammer price.
Among the strong performances for collectors' silver were two occupational badges from the William IV period entered from the same source. One was a 3oz fireman's oval arm badge marked for Jennens & Co of Birmingham 1830.
The other a silver-gilt royal
messenger's badge, AJ Strachan, London 1820, 31/2oz. The fireman's badge, with Britannia in the centre and London Assurance around the edge, is of the well-known published type, but no other version bearing the number 8 appears to be recorded, which doubtless helped it to double the estimate at £3800, paid by a specialist collector.
The messenger badge, which featured a painted Royal coat-of-arms to the centre, garter motto surround, a crown surmount and a suspended pendant greyhound, made £2400.
Small travelling canteens occasionally crop up in auctions but
it is rare to find two in one sale. The first to come up here comprised a shagreen case containing an oval beaker fitted with a green velvet plug to hold spoon, fork and knife, marrow scoop, double spice box and nutmeg grater. It was apparently unmarked, but thought possibly to be 18th century and sold for £1800. The second was more unusual in comprising a canteen for two, the
fitted leather case featuring two beakers marked Joseph Angell 1814, two knives, forks and spoons with detachable handles, by MB London 1813, plus two extra steel knife blades, a marrow spoon by Eley, Fearn and Chawner,1809 and a combination corkscrew nutmeg grater, London 1814. This came in under its £5000-7000 estimate at £4600.
Bonhams' auction was one of their regular monthly Knightsbridge events, in this case with an emphasis on flatware and card cases, the latter assembled from various sources over the past six months to make up an opening, 58-lot section. While virtually all the successful sales in this secton went to private purchasers, a trade and private mix contested the other material. Flatware and candlesticks provided the bulk of the 20 or so top prices in this sale surpassing the £1000 mark.
Amongst the vertu and novelty items that got paddles waving more energetically were a late Victorian piscine scent bottle with an amber and gold glass body, probably by Stevens and Williams of Stourbridge, and a Birmingham silver stopper mount by Horton & Allday, 1893, that fetched £750; and the piece on the catalogue cover, a 21/2in (5cm) high pepper pot shaped as a knight's helmet with pierced visor, Frederick Elkington, Birmingham 1869, that realised £500.