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Back in March 1993, Thomas Woodham-Smith of Mallett purchased a pair of 18th century gilt bronze candelabra at Christie’s South Kensington for £10,000.

They were of an unusual form, in the shape of an arch under which there were rocks and bullrushes and very obvious central gaps. After some research it became clear that the missing elements were a pair of Meissen swans, to a well-known design by Kändler. Mr Woodham-Smith then discovered that the candelabra were previously owned by a Jewish family who emigrated to the UK in the 1930s when an auction house advised them that although the candelabra were worthless, the swans could be sold. Thus the two were separated.

It was then remembered by a colleague at Mallett that the parents of one of his close friends had collected Meissen before the war. He called and asked whether they had a large pair of 18th century swans. They did – and seemingly they were the originals. A price was negotiated and porcelain and ormolu were re-united after 60 years.

Four days later the pair were purchased by Sir John Gooch and at the Benacre sale they were the target of a number of dealers and collectors before selling to a private buyer at £270,000 – some six times the upper estimate.