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It was also an ideal opportunity for a new team of auctioneers, including Mark Richards and Robert Lagneau, to introduce themselves to the Scottish public, having assumed responsibility for an auction that former Phillips valuers Alistair Drennan and Tamara Templer had helped to plan last Spring.

The Princess Royal Trust for Carers 10th Anniversary Charity Auction offered everyone a welcome contrast to the dog-eat-dog world of the salerooms. The auctioneers waived the buyer’s premium, trade entries were public knowledge, and for once there was not much bidding on the telephone.

Scottish aristocrats, celebrities and businessmen (including a fair sprinkling of local dealers) had donated lots to this sale. Bottles of whisky mingled with football shirts, jewellery, paintings and sub-standard furniture to give this sale something of the feel of an upmarket tombola, but there were a few items to be got by the trade, and not at great expense.

For there was a reluctance among private buyers to bid too charitably, what with a recession on the hoof, and most lots remained anchored to their estimates. But as with standard auctions, the better objects generally exceeded expectations.

The top price of the sale was paid for
a modern brilliant-cut diamond ring. Weighing 5ct and claw-set between baguette-cut diamond shoulders on a platinum mount, the ring sold to an Edinburgh lady at the top end of the estimate for £8000.

Elsewhere among the jewellery, a Victorian Scottish pebble brooch, with a central Cairngorm stone surrounded by segmented panels of agate, bloodstone and jasper, tripled expectations with a bid of £1300, an Edwardian brooch with a single opal drop suspended from a bar of 11 brilliant-cut diamonds went at £1700 and a gold ropework and elephant hair bracelet bearing the monogram of Rastafarian hero, Emperor Haile Selassie, who had presented it to the aristocratic vendor at an audience in Addis Adaba, sold at £1300.

Princess Anne, patron of the charity, made her presence felt by competing for a set of four Irish silver fingerbowls, Dublin 1912, which she secured for the princely sum of £350.
In some instances it appeared as though sellers had been more generous than buyers at this charity auction. Ian Marr Antiques had given a silver three-piece tea set, Chester and Birmingham 1909, which sold at the bottom of the estimate at £300.

Silver teasets of this period appear quite often. They are fairly standard fare and elicit the same response from bidders wherever they are sold, even when it is for a cause.

Mrs Ann Gloag, reportedly the richest woman in Scotland, had donated a limited edition bronze rhino, Basha, which had been commissioned by zoo keeper John Aspinall from artist William Timyms in 1985. The animal was expected to fetch £6000-8000 but could only muster £3800.

Enthusiasm was not so muted throughout proceedings, however. Mrs Gloag’s former husband Brian Souter, whose collection of vintage motor-cars is almost as legendary as his stewardship of South West Trains, supplied a 1933 Austin 7 Saloon, which took off with a double-estimate £6000.

Strong bidding also attended a George VI gold proof set of 1937, supplied by Mr Jimmie Cairncross, which took a double-estimate £2000, a late 17th/early 18th century brass chandelier with 12 branches, drip trays and sconces, measuring 2ft 8in (82cm) and adapted for electricity, which attracted a top-estimate £6000 and an early 19th century Italian micromosaic inlaid with an Arcadian landscape of a shepherd playing pan-pipes on the wooded banks of a stream, c.1820, mounted in a gilt metal frame and a fitted case, which sold above-estimate at £2300.

Having safely conducted their first sale under the new name, Bonhams could not be precise about the number and variety of sales they would be holding in Edinburgh over the coming year, but a spokeswoman did confirm that dolls and textiles sales will no longer be held at the George Street rooms, with consignments instead going to London.

So it remains to be seen whether the new administration is planning to maintain or improve on the quality and quantity of sales that Phillips held last year.

Bonhams, Edinburgh, January 18
Number of lots offered: 153
Number of lots sold: 140
Sale total: n/a
No Buyer’s premium