Antique silver and fine furniture
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.
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.