An­tique sil­ver and fine fur­ni­ture

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month I am tak­ing a look at some an­tique sil­ver and in­clud­ing some fine an­tique fur­ni­ture.

Sil­ver prices have been rea­son­ably sta­ble at auc­tion in the last year with good in­ter­est in nov­elty items, such as the cig­a­rette case seen here.

Fur­ni­ture prices have sta­bilised after hav­ing been in de­scent for the past five years or so. More peo­ple to­day are ‘mix­ing and match­ing’ the fur­ni­ture in their home. In years past, it was the case that most ei­ther fur­nished with older/an­tique fur­ni­ture or with modern.

To­day it is far more likely for old and new to be mixed to­gether. Some fur­ni­ture is be­ing ‘up­cy­cled’ which in­cludes paint­ing with a dec­o­ra­tive fin­ish. This, in my book, is a step for­ward, as it stops re­dun­dant fur­ni­ture go­ing into land­fill. Also, it is not just older folk do­ing so. Many younger peo­ple can see the ad­van­tage of up­cy­cling to have the op­por­tu­nity to in­clude in their homes dif­fer­ent and dis­tinc­tive fur­ni­ture.

Sil­ver lov­ing cup

Here, I am fea­tur­ing a solid sil­ver two-han­dled lov­ing cup. The idea of such cups goes back sev­eral hun­dred years. They were tra­di­tion­ally used at wed­dings (sym­bol­is­ing the join­ing of two fam­i­lies into one). They were made in var­i­ous ma­te­ri­als in­clud­ing china, pewter, cop­per, sil­ver and even wood.

They could date back to the days of King Al­fred (871-899AD). They were some­times re­ferred to as ‘grace cups’. This con­no­ta­tion is prin­ci­pally used in re­la­tion to col­leges of uni­ver­si­ties.

Ei­ther way, they were in olden days filled with ‘sack’ (a spiced wine) and passed be­tween guests from ta­ble to ta­ble. A mod­icum of ‘health and safety’ was em­ployed, as each im­biber wiped the edge of the cup with his nap­kin. It was tra­di­tion to take the drink in pairs. While one drank, the other stood on guard. This was so that the drinker was pro­tected from treach­ery, as King Ed­ward the Mar­tyr (975-978AD) was mur­dered while tak­ing a drink from a lov­ing cup.

As with port, the lov­ing cup is tra­di­tion­ally al­ways passed to the left.

The cup shown has clear hall­marks for Lon­don 1794 and the maker is John Kid­der. The mark also in­cludes the monarch’s head (Ge­orge III) to show that duty has been paid on the sil­ver. It weighs 10oz and stands 5ins in height. Auc­tion value lies around the £200 mark.

Sil­ver cig­a­rette case

As I re­marked, nov­elty items of sil­ver are in high de­mand to­day. Ob­jects such as condi­ments formed as an­i­mals and birds, like pigs and owls for ex­am­ple, are much prized. Any­thing to do with writ­ing let­ters, like ink­stands, pens, sil­ver mounted desk blot­ters, and postage scales, also score well.

Drink­ing-re­lated items sell well at auc­tion, for ex­am­ple claret jugs, corkscrews and bot­tle tick­ets that hung around the necks of de­canters, do well. How­ever, it is items re­lated to the sport­ing world that of­ten sur­pass these.

The most pop­u­lar are sil­ver items that cel­e­brate golf, cricket, row­ing, ath­let­ics, foot­ball and rugby. Hunt­ing, shoot­ing and fish­ing come in close be­hind. The cig­a­rette case here is made of sil­ver, but not in Eng­land.

It bears a small mark that is un­clear, but also the num­ber 830, which shows that the sil­ver con­tent is 830 parts out of 1,000 (in Bri­tain we have a stan­dard called ster­ling that is higher at 925 parts out of 1,000). The other metal is typ­i­cally cop­per, which main­tains its sil­ver colour while adding strength to the metal.

Pure sil­ver would be too soft to make into ob­jects. The cig­a­rette case dates from around 1900 and was prob­a­bly made in France or Ger­many. A hunt­ing type is be­ing pulled along by two grey­hounds. The work is done in coloured enam­els which are poured into an in­cised de­sign to the sil­ver. With­out the de­sign, the case would sell at auc­tion for £ 30 to £45, with it, around £ 300.

Ge­orge IV ma­hogany li­brary book­case

Book­cases are nearly as old as books. Struc­tures made of stone dat­ing back to the 4th cen­tury BC have been found in Egypt that would have housed papyrus rolls of that pe­riod. As you might ex­pect, the ex­pense of books and cases to keep them in meant that only the rich and learned had ei­ther.

Be­fore the in­ven­tion of printing in 15th cen­tury Ger­many, the books of this ear­lier pe­riod had heavy covers and many were metal mounted or be­jew­elled, in­creas­ing their weight.

Two dis­tinc­tive types be­came

avail­able: firstly open shelves built into walls and then, by the be­gin­ning of the 18th cen­tury, free-stand­ing pieces of fur­ni­ture made from a va­ri­ety of plain and dec­o­ra­tive woods came on to the mar­ket to fill a de­mand.

A French­man by the name of Charles Boulle (1642-1732) is the per­son of­ten cred­ited with mak­ing the first en­closed book­cases. These were long and low with brass lat­tice-work doors backed by some kind of coloured ma­te­rial to suit the dé­cor of the room. Taller book­cases only started to be seen by the mid-18th cen­tury.

In­deed, Thomas Chip­pen­dale fea­tured many dif­fer­ent de­signs in his pub­li­ca­tion ‘Gen­tle­men and cab­i­net mak­ers’ directory’, which is dated 1766. The ex­am­ple here dates from 1830 to 1840 (the late Ge­or­gian/early Vic­to­rian pe­riod).

It can be re­ferred to as a li­brary book­case. It has a break-front, that is to say that the cen­tre sec­tion stands proud of the left and right sec­tions, thus break­ing the line of the front. This one is of typ­i­cal de­sign with four as­tra­gal (beaded) glass doors in a Gothic taste. These are over four en­clos­ing doors to the base. It is made of solid ma­hogany.

Good qual­ity ex­am­ples can still change hands for be­tween £2,000 to £ 3,000 or more.

Pair of Louis XV carved gilt­wood chairs

It is strange how the fash­ion for chairs has changed over the past few years. It was the Vic­to­rian ma­hogany or rose­wood arm­chairs that were most sought after in the pe­riod from 1970 through to 2000. Since then, we have turned away from the darker coloured woods, choos­ing to buy lighter and brighter de­signs.

Step for­ward the Louis Quinze (1710-1774) style French arm­chair. The fur­ni­ture of this pe­riod was of­ten flam­boy­ant, highly carved and some­times gilded. The de­signs were usu­ally based on Ori­en­tal and Baroque themes from ear­lier pe­ri­ods. The term “there is noth­ing new under the sun” rings clear here. The carv­ing was car­ried out by hand, as was the gild­ing, which was ap­plied us­ing pages of wafer­thin gold leaf.

The gilt­work was prone to wear and fad­ing over the years, ne­ces­si­tat­ing re-gild­ing. This was usu­ally most needed to the ends of the arms and to the front legs. The pair shown are much later, 19th cen­tury re­pro­duc­tions, which have a much chunkier feel to them than the 18th cen­tury orig­i­nals. The de­signs were pop­u­lar again from around 1880 to 1910 when they were re­placed by more modern de­signs with clean lines. The two here, which seem a lit­tle worn in places, would sell for around £250 to £ 300 for the pair.

Ma­hogany low­boy

I am fea­tur­ing an­other piece of in­ter­est­ing fur­ni­ture from the early 18th cen­tury, known as a low­boy.

Low­boys, high­boys and tall­boys are terms that are used in re­la­tion to fur­ni­ture. High­boys, or tall­boys, are terms used to de­scribe a chest stand­ing on top of an­other chest.

The term tall­boy can also ap­ply to a short wardrobe to be found in a 20th cen­tury bed­room suite. In my world, low­boy refers to a small ta­ble-cum-chest with a rec­tan­gu­lar top over three draw­ers, al­though some had a sin­gle long drawer.

They were a multi-func­tional piece of fur­ni­ture.

The first ap­peared dur­ing the reign of Wil­liam and Mary, from 1689 to 1702. Dur­ing this time they were usu­ally made of wal­nut and oc­ca­sion­ally in oak. A lit­tle later, as ma­hogany be­came more pop­u­lar, many were made from this richly grained red wood. The ex­am­ple here is in cross-banded ma­hogany with in­lay to the draw fronts. It is raised on bold cabri­ole legs with pad feet. It is typ­i­cal of the mid to late 18th cen­tury.

This is a good look­ing ex­am­ple. It would sell at auc­tion for around £400 to £ 500.

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