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The Russian silver and niello work box that sold for £24,000 at Wilkinson’s.

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The lid of the 3in (9cm) diameter box is engraved with an aerial map, with a numbered key inscribed with descriptions of historical monuments on the base, while a continuous panoramic view of the city is engraved around the sides. The gilt interior bears a series of marks.

When it was brought in by the vendor, a Doncaster lady, the minutely detailed engraving was obscured by dirt. But it was cleaned and, although the location of the map was not indentified by the auctioneers, who estimated it at just £300-500, it soon attracted a lot of attention.

Eight phone lines were booked for the sale and several Russians, no doubt in Britain for Russian week in London, made the trip to Doncaster.

But it was Leeds-based works of art dealers the Tomasso Brothers who won it in the end for £24,000 (plus 15% buyer's premium).

Giovanni Tomasso had indentified the map as being of the remote port of Archangel, in the far north of Russia, and described the box as being of "exquisite quality".

By Anna Brady