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“There was definitely more of a buzz in the room for things like tea sets that have been difficult to move all year,” said CSK silver specialist Jeffrey Lassaline. “Our sale showed a lot more promise than usual and viewing was packed,” agreed Bonhams Knightsbridge specialist Michael Moorcroft. “Even things like early 20th century Sheffield plate tea services were actually selling.”

While the market may have picked up for bread-and- butter auction entries like tea services that must now represent relatively good value for money, it is still the unusual, fresh-to-market works in good condition that are most sought after by buyers. The highlight at CSK was the unusually shaped, 23oz, George III silver tea caddy-on-stand (shown right), mark of Andrew Fogelberg & Stephen Gilbert, London, 1785, 63/8in (16cm).

A related silver-gilt teapot on a nearly identical stand, by the same makers hallmarked 1784, is in the V&A collection. Its design has been attributed to Sir William Chambers, the renowned neoclassical architect of London’s Somerset House.

The likelihood of this caddy-on-stand being based on a design by Sir William coupled with its honest
condition and unusual form made it a must-have for one telephone buyer who outbid the trade for ownership at £8500.

The caddy was one of 38 entries (totalling £43,300) consigned by a European collector upgrading his collection. The dispersal also included an 111/2oz Victorian novelty smoker’s companion, mark of James Barclay Hennell, London, 1876. Modelled as a grizzly bear with detachable head, it was in excellent condition and wrested £6000 from a London dealer. The 270-lot sale made £202,735 with a healthy 73 per cent sold by lot.

The statistics told a similar story at Bonhams where a slightly higher 81 per cent of the 388 entries found buyers and sold to the tune of £118,895. As at CSK, a collectable tea caddy was one of the highlights. The good-looking 13oz George III cube-shaped caddy by Augustin Le Sage, London, 1772, had plain sides with engraved borders and was in crisp condition. Privately entered, it sold to a collector for £2700.