13-09-17-2108NE01A antique lanterns.jpg
The late 18th or early 19th century narwhal tusk and gilt-metal lanterns that sold for £18,000 at Louis Taylor.

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Described as Venetian, specialist Clive Hillier had been told that the consignor's father-in-law, who had inherited them many years before, believed they had been made in this most exotic of materials to light the way of a sedan chair.

An alternative view is that they may have been lamps for a gondola, but detailed research was not conclusive.

They stood just shy of 6ft (1.83m) high and were in original condition, save a missing wrythen glass shade.

"I kept the estimate down to £5000-8000 (large unworked narwhal tusks can bring this much on their own). But they were so original, in very good condition and just the thing for the decorative market that I expected them to make more," he toldATG.

At the sale on September 9, four phone bidders competed with two in the room up to around £12,000, after which the latter two continued up to £18,000 when the hammer fell to the London trade.

The buyer's premium was 17.5%.