An 18th century Liberty is Sweet decanter, £2800 at Thomson Roddick.

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By the 1760s and the 1770s, liberty had been embraced by all right-thinking ‘British’ political factions that promoted the values of free trade, property rights and Protestantism.

The motto Liberty is Sweet engraved to the shouldered decanter shown above, alongside the image of a bird cage with its door swung open, could perhaps be a reference to unrest in the American colonies.

However, dating from c.1760, it more likely offers support for other ‘liberal’ causes such as John Wilkes’ fight of the freedom of the press or the support for the Hanoverians against Catholic ‘despotism’.


A detail of the engraving of the Liberty is Sweet decanter that made £2800 at Thomson Roddick.

Apart from the chipped ‘spire’ stopper, the decanter, with an unmarked white metal mount, was in good condition. An attractive proposition at the £50-100 estimate it received at Thomson Roddick (20% buyer’s premium) in Edinburgh on February 16, it raced away to bring £2800 via

Bud brother

As the means to raise a toast in public or secret, drinking glasses and decanters were used as a way of showing support for ideas.

Jacobite glasses, those engraved with symbols honouring the Stuart succession, are among the best-known of all Georgian glasses that mixed politics with pleasure.


Two 18th century colour-twist glasses with Jacobite engraving, £8000 at McTear’s.

The pair shown above, with white and blue enamel double twist stems, carry the motif of a rose and a bud (representing Bonnie Prince Charlie and his brother Henry) and a butterfly representing the hope for the Stuarts’ grand return from exile.

They evidently posed something of a puzzle at auction house McTear’s (24% buyer’s premium) in Glasgow on February 2.

While the glass was deemed 18th century, it was quite possible that the engraving was a later addition - perhaps added in the late 19th or early 20th century when interest in Jacobite collecting first began.

The colour twist stems proved nonetheless to be a great draw and, guided at £100-150, this pair of wine glasses sold for £8000.