Romance In the Air at our Two Day June Sale!


The Victorian ‘language of love’ was recalled in the two-day June sale at The Canterbury Auction Galleries, when romantics spent freely to buy from an extensive offering of privately consigned antique and contemporary jewellery.

In the mid-19th century, strict etiquette, obsessive attention to modesty, and parents determined to see their progeny marry well, forced many young lovers to conduct their courtship in discreet secrecy. So they devised a means to convey their thoughts and desires in other ways. The flowers chosen for a bouquet, corsage or buttonhole, for example, even the way a visiting card was folded, conveyed messages that could, or should, be otherwise unspoken.

When Prince Albert proposed to Queen Victoria, he gave her what is now regarded as the very first engagement ring, which was shaped like a serpent, the head set with small rubies, diamonds, and an emerald, her birthstone. In mythology, the snake is an emblem of goodness, wisdom and eternal love and soon, serpent jewellery was all the rage.

Recalling the fashion, a 19th century, 18-carat gold articulated necklace designed as a snake devouring a heart set with a small keepsake window, the snake’s head decorated with turquoise and red stones, offered by a private seller, was much in demand. It sold for £2,600 against an estimate of £500-700.

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The famous slogan ‘A Diamond is Forever’ was coined a century later and a somewhat grander engagement ring than that worn by Queen Victoria, a solitaire set in platinum with a round, brilliant-cut diamond weighing slightly over four carats, sold for £12,000. From another local seller, it was purchased by a Hampshire buyer who secured a good quality solitaire for the money, complete with Gemmological Certification Services Report.

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Auctioneer Cliona Kilroy said the diamond market is currently highly selective and another solitaire ring, now regarded as entry-level, boasted an extremely clear two-carat stone set in platinum. It doubled its pre-sale estimate to sell for £4,000, while a 20th century platinum ring set with five old European cut diamonds, of approximately 2.5ct, sold on mid-estimate for £3,000.

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From the same local home as the latter, a modern 18ct gold flowerhead ring set with a central ruby of approximately .75ct surrounded by eight brilliant-cut round diamonds of approximately .75ct sold to a London buyer for £2,700 against an estimate of £1000-1500.

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Another stunning offering was an 18-carat gold sapphire and diamond ring that had been inherited by its local vendor. The Sri Lankan (Ceylon) central stone of approximately 12 carats exhibited a rare and highly desirable natural and untreated cornflower blue colour and was surrounded by approximately 22 small diamonds. It sold to a Welsh buyer for £5,600.

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Vintage wristwatches continue to be wanted, the most valuable on this occasion proving to be an 18ct gold and diamond Omega Seamaster automatic with champagne gold dial, plain and diamond-set baton numerals and date window on an 18ct gold Milanese bracelet in its original box. It sold to an Essex buyer for an above estimate £4,100, while a lady's stainless steel Rolex Oyster Perpetual, with mother of pearl dial and diamond-set baton numerals, original bracelet and box with tag and outer box, sold to a local buyer, again above estimate for £2,400.

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There was also much interest and strong bidding for a Victorian rosewood four-glass mantel clock by renowned London maker John Frodsham, of Green Church Street. The 3.75ins silvered dial was engraved with shell and foliate scroll spandrels and a separate seconds dial, the twin chain fusee movement with English level platform escapement, striking on a coiled gong, contained in a rosewood case with bevelled glass top and side panels and gilt handle cast with mythological creature heads, the whole standing on a plinth base with four gilt flat bun feet. It was estimated at £3,000-4,000 but sold to a local buyer for £11,500.

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A colourful addition to the two-day sale was a group of Sixties film posters from the Old Regent Cinema in Deal, Kent.  Pick of the group was the now-iconic 1968 box office hit ‘Bullitt’ starring Steve McQueen, Robert Vaughan and Jacqueline Bisset. The 39in x 30in folded and unframed poster by doyen poster artist, Manchester-born Tom Chantrell (1916-2001) sold to a buyer from the South East for £4,800.


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On a more studious note, a three-quarter length portrait of Robert Harley, Earl of Oxford (1661-1724), a copy of the same work by Godfrey Kneller (1646-1723) sold on estimate to a Midlands buyer for £3,900. The oil on canvas, 50ins x 40ins, in a carved gilt wood frame is similar to a copy in the National Portrait Gallery and is based on a full-length portrait of 1714. Similar three-quarter length versions include those in the British Museum and those formerly at Patshull and Compton Verney.


Two oils by Canterbury-born Thomas Sidney Cooper (1803-1902) were offered for sale by an East Sussex vendor. "A Group of Sheep" in a Kentish landscape beneath a stormy sky, 19.5ins x 24ins, signed and dated 1869, sold for £2,400, while “Cattle at Pasture", the two beasts and three recumbent sheep set beneath a moody sky, 16ins x 20ins, signed and dated 1860, was just shy of its reserve in the sale but sold immediately afterwards for £3,000. They were purchased by two different local buyers.

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The undoubted highlight among a small section of good silver from a deceased estate was a William III porringer, a splendid and an early example of Britannia silver, possibly by Robert Peake, (London 1699, 10.2ozs), with bead mounted scroll handles, the body with reeded and fluted ornament and stamped with foliate decoration and a raised oval cartouche engraved with initials "S. I. M." within a scroll border. Engraved "E S" to the base, it sold to a local collector on estimate for £1,450. Introduced in 1697, the Britannia assay mark denoted a higher quality of the metal to stop silversmiths from clipping and melting coins to build a stock of silver.

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From the same estate and bringing some whimsy to the auction was a George Jones majolica pottery game pie dish, circa 1873, the oval cover modelled with a partridge serving as its finial, one chick sitting on the bird’s back with the rest of its brood nestled amongst ferns and grasses. Rabbits seated among grasses and ferns decorated the turquoise ground sides, while the handles were modelled as entwined branches. The dish had been purchased at Sotheby's in London, in 1997 and this time out, it sold to an Essex buyer for £5,500 despite restoration to the cover against an estimate of £1,500-2,000.


Entries of good quality furniture, antiques, works of art, jewellery and collectors’ items are invited for the next sale at The Canterbury Auction Galleries, which is on August 6-7. Free saleroom valuations can be arranged, either in person with an appointment or by email, accompanied by good quality images. Valuations for probate purposes are carried out under strict Covid safety conditions. For further information, please contact the saleroom, telephone 01277 763337 or

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