Catherine Southon’s October 3 sale at Farleigh Court Golf Club in Selsdon, Surrey, offers a single-owner collection comprising more than 80 Devlin lots, including his distinctive and collectable ‘Surprise Eggs’ plus a complete set of the Christmas boxes (where each one is one represents one of the twelve days of Christmas – only 100 sets of these are known to exist).
Also included is a range of silver candlesticks, tableware, flatware, champagne flutes, goblets and beakers. Estimates range from £100-6000.
See accompanying pictures for some auction highlights.
Local links helped to secure the collection for auction. The Devlin group has been amassed by a lady who who lives close to Ripley Arts Centre, where Southon has an office. The consignor attends one of the art classes there - and that’s how she heard of the auction house and its sales, particularly of silver and jewellery.
The anonymous consignor says: “While I was a young married teacher in the ‘60s I read a newspaper article about Stuart Devlin, who was a promising young silversmith who had moved to London having won renown for designing the Australian Mint. The accompanying photo showed a pair of the most elegant and stylish candlesticks I had ever seen.
“At that moment the urge to buy some of his work was born, although I had to wait quite a few years to afford it. By chance I visited an antiques fair in Harrogate and spotted a small pot pourri dish with the trademark silver gilt bubbly finish and so the collection was begun.”
The collector “loved the originality and humour of the exquisite eggs” and over the years her Harrogate contact sent several pieces of his work.
“Then I discovered the Silver Vaults [in London] and added larger pieces; sets of champagne flutes, wine and goblets and a set of stunning candelabra and table lights. Sadly the time has come to downsize so I have kept several favourite small items and hope the new owners will have the same pleasure and fun that I have had from the collection.”
From Australia to London
Devlin, who was born in Australia, in Geelong, Victoria, died earlier this year aged 86. He studied goldsmithing and silversmithing at Royal Melbourne Technical College and then silversmithing and sculpture at Columbia University, New York (1960-62).
However, it was winning the competition to design Australia’s first decimal coinage changed his life, which was introduced in 1966. Subsequently, he designed the medals for Australia’s new honours system in 1975 and many of their defence force and civilian medals, as well as coins for more than 30 other countries.
For the Australian coins, he supervised the cutting of the dies at the Royal Mint in London and in 1965, using his prize money, he bought a small house in Clerkenwell, London, with a basement workshop where he started a goldsmithing and silversmithing business.
This was the first of seven workshops where he employed and trained many highly skilled craftsmen.
He was appointed CMG in 1980, granted a royal warrant in 1982 and in 1996-97 served as prime warden of the Goldsmiths’ Company. He was also integral to the foundation of the Goldsmiths’ Centre, which opened in 2012, aimed at addressing shortcomings in the creative education and training of goldsmiths.