Antique silver remains highly sought after, sometimes leading to eye-watering prices at auction. Sometimes the sentimental value of a piece of silver is its most treasured asset, but silver, the second most precious metal after gold, has been crafted into some extraordinary pieces, achieving prices to match.
$3.9 million for a pack of cards?
This is not any old deck of playing cards, but one crafted in silver in 1616 in Germany. It was once stolen by a Portuguese princess as she escaped from Napoleon’s army. The rarity value, as well as the intriguing back story, no doubt contributed to the recent selling price.
A wine cistern fit for a baron
For just a little less at $3.8 million, an ornate silver wine cistern was sold at Sotheby’s in 2010. Designed to hold wine bottles, it was used to serve the royal family, and in fact the 168 pounds of silver was itself offered by Queen Anne to the craftsman Philip Rollo. The owner was the 3rd Baron Raby, who was ambassador to the king of Prussia in the early eighteenth century and bears the embossed cipher of Queen Anne. The royal connection adds to the appeal of the item.
The first to break the million
When the antique silver punch bowl from the family of Commodore Joshua Loring came up for auction, it was estimated to fetch no more than $800,000. However it became the first silverware to cross the million dollar threshold in 2010, when Sotheby’s sold it for $5.9 million. It is both rare and beautiful, the work of Cornelius Kierstede, a silversmith working in New York in 1700.
The British record breaker
Christie’s sold the most expensive British silverware to date in 2013, with an exceptional coffee pot for $7 million. The elegant George II piece had previously been exhibited at New York’s Metropolitan Museum. Created by Paul de Lamerie in 1738, the piece is noted for its elaborate Rococo details.
$10 million, 10 years ago
Having survived the French Revolution, the notable soup tureen by Thomas Germain remains extremely rare, as so many other Louis XV pieces were melted down in the turmoil of the period. It was auctioned for $10 million in 1996, reflecting its illustrious past, having been created for Louis XV for use at grand banquets. The silversmith’s skill is evident in the design and details that adorn its elegant form.
Whilst not everyone can enjoy such showstoppers in their own antique silver collection, these examples show that antique rarity, artful craftsmanship and precious metal remain a very desirable combination.