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Just one lot passed the £10,000 barrier, but both sales had enough to lift them above the pedestrian and – buoyed up no doubt, by a dearth of material at this time of year – both rooms reported well-attended viewings, especially at the weekend, and some respectable selling percentages.

Bonhams, for example, had not had a sale since early December and their specialist Michael Moorcroft felt that this longish gap had worked in favour of the sale’s content. As well as some re-offerings from a previous Bond Street auction, he felt that the quality was up in certain areas. They managed to get away 77 per cent of the lots (83 per cent in value), totalling £133,740.

But even if bidders are hungry for stock, there is still a palpable difference between the pieces they want only at the right price and the items considered to be a purchasing opportunity rare enough to go over the odds.

The prime case in point was the silver ale set illustrated here. Comprising a jug and 12 mugs designed on a hunting theme, they were marked for Lionel Alfred Crichton, London 1930 and weighed 194oz. Each piece had a handle modelled as a fox with the 111/2in (30cm) high baluster-shaped jug applied with two oval panels featuring a hunt in full cry and each cylindrical mug with a further hunting scene to a band around the neck. The set had very little wear.

While individual stirrup mugs or jugs come up, a complete set is a much rarer offering and one that had plenty of potential appeal to the hunting fraternity. Bonhams had estimated the piece at £3000-4000 but there were four potential trade and private buyers still in action around the £10,000 mark, after which two determined dealers took it on to £13,500. Michael Moorcroft thought the purchaser could have been acting on commission.

Hunting interest was also behind the strong price paid for a Victorian silver vesta case marked for Sampson Mordan, 1897, and enamelled to the cover with a scene of pheasant shooting with the birds being driven from a wood. The enamel was damaged in several places – Bonhams had accordingly estimated it modestly at £300-400 – but it sold to the trade at £1500.

Silver standards amongst the other top lots included a 144oz set of eight George II dinner plates by George Methuen, London 1758, bearing arms for Robert, 2nd Earl of Grosvenor and his wife Elinor, that made £2700; a 155oz set of 10 gadroon-bordered silver dinner plates marked for Paul Storr, London 1814, that had been re-shaped at some point, which fetched £3900, and a 691/2oz three-piece, parcel-gilt teaset by the same maker (a re-offering from the auctioneers’ Bond Street sale last year) that came in at £3000.

Christie’s South Kensington have already had one sale this year on January 13, but it was essentially what specialist Jeffrey Lassaline termed “a bit of a clear-out” as the final total of around £60,000 for 288 lots implies.

Their 263-lot sale last week, while not featuring any individual high-flyers, was certainly several rungs up the ladder in overall quality, buoyed up by some single-owner, privately entered Swiss and French ensembles that gave the sale a stronger than usual Continental flavour. The final statistics underscored this: the sale raised a net total of £174,715 and sold 78 per cent by lot and value, compared with average rates last year of around the 70 per cent mark.

“Based on the lesson of last year we have been much more realistic on estimates,” said Mr Lassaline.

Aided by a strong input from a couple of private purchasers, the auctioneers managed to sell all 15 lots in a privately consigned section of predominantly 18th and 19th century Swiss silver. Prices were mostly around estimate, although a 24oz, 121/2in (31cm) diameter salver of c.1780 marked for Elie Papus and Pierre Henry Dautin doubled predictions at £1300.

There were within-estimate prices for two 1820s Italian (Roman) oil lamps, one 17in (43cm) high in silver with a bronze stem fashioned as a figure of Mercury, the other 201/4in (51cm) high. Jeffrey Lassaline described these as “conditionally challenged” (the smaller example had a broken finial and the larger some bruising) and guided them accordingly. They went for £2800 and £4800.

Much of the sale comprised standard English antique silverware of which a typical offering, a 128oz silver soup tureen marked for Thomas Robins, London 1807, made the top price of £5000.

Lastly, an illustration of the sought-after collector’s item – a 17th century (c.1680) ivory cased set of six knives and a fork in their original 51/2in (14cm) high turned ivory case. The knife handles had a maker’s mark of R.S, probably for Richard Sheldon, while the blades were marked, probably for Joseph Stanhouse and also bore the dagger of the Cutlers’ Company. There was some damage (the hinge to the case was broken and the blades had some pitting) but a cased set like this must be a rare survival and it easily outstripped a £300-500 estimate to take £2000 .