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Strainers like this one, measuring a substantial 11in (28cm) across, were made to span the rim of a silver or ceramic punch bowl, catching debris as fruit juices, spices and liquor were brewed together. This is one of only a small handful of Limerick-marked examples and, as well as a clean condition report, it had the regional personality that provincial silver collectors admire.

Each of the handles is pierced with a heart-shaped motif and flat-chased with a border of flowers and scrolls. Specialist Alex Butcher said "it shouted Limerick" before he looked at the mark. He was aware of another by the maker sold at Christie's East (New York) in 2001 for $28,000 but was able to pitch this private entry at £600-800.

Eager Contest

It was eagerly contested by Irish dealers and collectors on the phone and on the internet but the successful buyer, a local private collector, was in the room.

All Limerick silver is rare (much harder to find than pieces carrying marks for Cork) but two other hollowares by Joseph Johns were offered by Adams at Slane Castle, Co Meath, in October last year. A cream jug and sugar bowl, bearing initials for the Unthank Quaker family, both were part of the 2007-08 exhibition of Limerick silver held in the Hunt Museum. They sold for €13,000 and €21,500 respectively.

The sale took place on July 14 and the buyer's premium was 22%.