A routine house call in the Macclesfield area saw Cheshire auctioneer Adam Partridge return with a superb pair of Elkington & Co ormolu and cloisonné enamel vases in the boot of his car.
Measuring an impressive 2ft 3in (71cm) high, one was decorated with two flamingos, two dragonflies and an exotic bird among irises and water lilies, the other with a hawk and garden birds among various flowering branches with a lakeland landscape beyond.
The border decoration and the cast and pierced gilt-bronze mounts similarly combined Oriental and European motifs. Both were in first-class condition, retaining their original lift-out liners, displaying only two small flaws to the enamel.
Vases such as these (both were signed Elkington & Co in 'wires' within the design, while one was stamped Elkington to the metal mount) were shown at the Philadelphia Centenary Exhibition of 1876. Elkington's were the only leading British silversmiths to show at Philadelphia and a lithograph for The Art Journal showing their display of cloisonné enamels includes a single vase very close to this Macclesfield pair.
While their manufacture appears to copy Japanese cloisonné wire techniques, the Birmingham firm made their interpretations using electro-deposition (rather than wires) to create cavities for the enamels.
They produced the line for only a few years, as it ultimately proved more cost effective to import decorative enamelwares from Japan.
The Macclesfield auctioneers pitched the newly-discovered pair modestly at £2000-3000, a level that attracted eight telephone bidders and more in the room on December 13. At £86,000 (plus 18% buyer's premium), they were purchased by a London dealer.