The 19th century blue john pedestal urns that made £120,000 at Tennants.

Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

Consigned from a Leicestershire estate for the auction on July 13-14, the 9¼in (23cm) diameter urns, standing 15in (38cm) on their marble bases, were not only superb examples of the unique Derbyshire fluorspar, but the ormolu mounts, in the manner of the great French bronzier Pierre-Philippe Thomire, were particularly fine, hence the £15,000-25,000 estimate.

With eight phone lines involved, bidding in the packed North Yorkshire saleroom quickly rose to £65,000, before the battle came down to two phone bidders. To the fascination of the hushed saleroom they fought it out until the urns were finally knocked down to a UK dealer at £120,000 (plus 18.5% buyer's premium).

Underlining their special quality was the fact that the previous lot, a pair of 20in (52cm) tall, ormolu-mounted blue john obelisk candelabra, looking just about as impressive, failed to electrify the room in the same way, selling just short of the lower estimate at £11,000.

A full sale report will appear in next week's ATG printed newspaper. To subscribe, click here.