Diamonds, rubies - and rare glimpse of ancient Tibet

24/10/22

The auction may have been held in October - but it was beginning to look a lot like Christmas when jewellery came under the hammer.

A delicate diamond butterfly brooch was the star of the show, fetching £4,900 against an estimate of £500-700. And a collection of exquisite gold jewellery from famous German designers Wellendorff also shone.

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A client had made an appointment for us to view the items on one of our Friday valuation days and everyone was pleased that they chose to.  A gold pave diamond charm for a Wellendorff bracelet went for a healthy £2,700, a twisted gold ‘rope’ necklace with suspended W logo for £3,000 and a matching bracelet for £2,100 - all above estimate.

 

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 Many other potential gifts were the subject of strong bidding, including a ruby and diamond pendant, which reached £4,900 and – not forgetting the chaps – an automatic Rolex Oyster, which fetched £2,200. That was still something of a bargain in our opinion, as the investment market for Rolexes has outperformed that of both housing and gold in recent years.

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Huge interest surrounded a collection of unique sepia photographs of former British officer and orientalist Henry Lee Shuttleworth (1882-1960) who spent many years in the early 1900s exploring the Western Himalayas for the Indian Civil Service.

Polymath Shuttleworth was also a keen photographer and took a plate camera on his expeditions – which took two bearers to carry - to the remote Spiti valley in the state of Himachal Pradesh. There he captured the daily life and culture in the Buddhist valley, capturing scenes now lost to history. His equally intrepid wife, Inez, was often by his side, battling blizzards, crossing swaying rope-bridges and climbing high-altitude mountains; rare journeys for a Western woman in the early 1900s.

As well as being fascinating, the images were beautifully composed and many of the prints carried Shuttleworth’s own notes and descriptions on the reverse. The hammer fell to a Chinese bidder who won this fascinating archive for £3,600, ten times the estimate.

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Another historic image – this time among the strong selection of artworks - was an unusually intimate portrait of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, painted by his brother-in-law John Callcott Horsley (1817-1903). Horsley was himself a well-known artist (incidentally, credited for being the inventor of the Christmas card) and an earlier version of this oil painting is held by the National Portrait Gallery.

This later example, dating from 1885, had been in private ownership by long family descent, firstly from Brunel’s nephew then directly through the family to the current vendor. It fetched £10,000.

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The Lowry name, too, never fails to attract, and three signed lithographs in his distinctive style fetched good prices, especially ‘The Two Brothers’ which sold for £3,700. These lovely prints also came in on one of our free Friday valuation days: why not ring for an appointment too?

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One man’s collection of 19th and early 20th century European bronzes also attracted much attention, perhaps not solely for the high quality alone. A bronze by Dimitri Chiparus (1886-1947) of a naked woman with upstretched arms fetched £2,800, four times the estimate, while a hinged owl that opened to reveal another naked woman, this time crafted by Franz Bergmann (1861-1936), doubled its estimate and sold for £1,600.

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More peacefully, an elegant gilt bronze vase of a girl standing among irises by Charles Korschann (1872-1943) fetched £640, double the estimate. And a beautiful gilt and silver bronze figure on an onyx base by Louis-Ernest Barrias (1841-1905) sold for £2,000.

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 The entire collection made £42,230 for the discerning collector.

Small was most definitely beautiful when it came to a tiny Worcester coffee cup, dated from around 1753-54. It was pencilled in black with delicate flowers and moth. It had no saucer as it’s thought these were passed around on a tray. It sold for £1,400, just one item within a small collection of good quality English porcelain from Surrey, part of a deceased estate.

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Other highlights in this private collection were a Meissen Cabaret tea set in striking lilac and gilt, which doubled its estimate and sold for £3,500 and a rare Worcester Fable Plate of Lord Henry Thynne pattern from around 1778-80. This also featured elaborate gilding and fetched £1,450. 

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Chinese patterns never fail to please and a pair of 19th century Chinese porcelain vases, featuring dragons among pink and blue clouds, with an 18th century Chinese saucer, fetched £840 against an estimate of £200-300. Interest in this porcelain continued with a handsome pair of Chinese Famille Verte vases on stands that sold for £520, double the estimate.  

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A moving archive of a dramatic life came in a collection of poignant letters and other ephemera belonging to WWII bomber pilot Sgt Mark Mead. He was shot down in his Halifax and spent years in a Stalag PoW camp, writing regularly to his mother, before being forced to take part in the little-known ‘Death March’ in the closing days of the war. It’s estimated that nearly 100,000 Allied prisoners had to march around 1,000 miles in the bitter winter of 1945 across Poland and Czechoslovakia to Germany: thousands died along the way.

Mead survived to live a full life in Kent.

The unique archive includes his membership of the Caterpillar Club, an informal association of people who have successfully parachuted out of a disabled aircraft. It sold after the sale for £2,600 to local medal collector who was so moved by the story he bought it to, potentially, put on display.

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Interest in all things Fifties and mid-century continues to capture interest. Reflecting this, a ‘Heron Chair’ designed by Ernest Race (1913-1964) sold for £640, well above expectations. Race’s furniture included the groovy Antelope Chair, which he created for the Festival of Britain in 1951. The vendor worked for the company as an upholsterer: as a consequence the inviting chair was in excellent condition.

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An exquisite early 19th century longcase regulator, by Barwise of London, chronometer and clock makers to the Dukes of York, Kent, Cumberland and Gloucester rightfully received much attention. John Barwise was one of London's most respected watchmakers and also served on the Board of Longitude, a government body that was originally created to encourage innovators to solve the problem of finding longitude at sea. (And if you haven’t read Dava Sobel’s short book Longitude about this amazing quest, treat yourself to a copy.)

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The tall, eight-day clock had a 12ins diameter silvered dial with Roman and Arabic numerals, central seconds over hour dials within the outer minute track and blued steel hands to the single train movement. Six heavy turned pillars supported the back plate with end stops and jewelled palettes, while the metal rod pendulum has a mercury compensated bob and single brass-cased weight, contained in a figured mahogany case inlaid with ebony stringings. Estimated at £6,500-7.500, it sold for £9,500.

Entries of jewellery, works of art, good quality furniture and collectors’ items are invited for our pre-Christmas sale at The Canterbury Auction Galleries on December 3-4.

Free valuations can be arranged, either in person with an appointment or by email, accompanied by good quality images. We are also well known for our careful and sensitive valuations of deceased estates for probate purposes.

For further information, please contact the saleroom on 01277 763337 or by email at general@tcag.co.uk.

 

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