1. Tiffany royal presentation pepperette – £8000
This Tiffany Aesthetic movement silver-gilt pepperette is engraved with the presentation inscription Given by TRH Prince & Princess of Wales, Xmas 1879.
Research at the Tiffany Archive in 2021 found the original order for this piece in the Silver Manufacturing Ledger. Priced at $10 for making and $14 for etching, it was commissioned by the Prince of Wales.
The owners in north Wales had no idea how it came to be in the family collection but consigned it for sale as part of the Selections & Collections at Rogers Jones in Cardiff on November 19 with a guide of £1800-2500. It made £8000.
2. Gold ‘toadstone’ ring – £12,500
Found by head of department Catriona Smith in a box of mixed jewellery, this rare 16th or 17th century gold ‘toadstone’ ring came for sale at Sworders in November 23.
Toadstones are the button-like palatal teeth of lepidotes, an extinct genus of ray finned fish from the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. However, throughout the Middle Ages and into the 18th century they were thought to be found in the heads of living toads and were highly prized for their supposed magical properties. In particular, it was believed they could be used as an antidote to poison and were commonly worn about the personal as amuletic rings and pendants.
Loose toadstones were discovered among other gemstones in the Cheapside Hoard while William Shakespeare referred to them in As You Like It (1599) writing: Sweet are the uses of adversity, Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous, Wears yet a precious jewel in his head.
Sworders’ example, set in a high carat gold shank in the Tudor or early Stuart period, is pierced to the underside in the expectation that the stone’s protective powers would be increased on contact with the wearer’s skin. At some point in its life the ring had become too small for the owner to wear so instead it was fitted to a chain.
These are always desirable items – in March one sold for an unexpected £4200 at Reeman Dansie in Colchester – and this example, offered with expectations of £3000-5000, took £12,500
3. Botanical studies – £3200
The Catherine Southon sale at Farleigh Golf Club on November 16 included more than 20 botanical watercolours that came by descent from the botanist William Curtis (1746-99). His reputation was such that he was made the praefectus horti of the Society of Apothecaries at the Chelsea Physic Garden in 1772.
The following year he established a botanical garden for the cultivation and study of native British plants, first in Bermondsey, then in Lambeth Marsh and later Brompton. For an annual subscription of a guinea patrons could visit and attend the lectures he gave there, and for an extra guinea a year they could also have a share in the 6000 plants and seeds from the garden.
These four watercolour and pencil botanical studies of plants titled Saponaria Vaccaria, Saxiafraga Oppositfolia Purple Saxifrage, Daphne Mezereon and Alyssum deltoides were offered together with a guide of £1800-2500. They led the group when they sold at £3200.
4. Queen Victoria 1893 proof set – £90,000
The final proof coin set bearing Queen Victoria’s portrait was issued by the Royal Mint in 1893. The engraver Thomas Brock (1847-1922) was given the task of producing what would become known as the ‘widow head’, ‘veiled head’ or ‘old head’ bust of the monarch. The artist's initials TB appear in relief in the field below the shoulder.
The Royal Mint decided to issue two separate sets, a 10-coin set including four gold coins (a five pounds piece, two pounds piece, sovereign and half sovereign) and a smaller six-coin set containing a silver crown, half crown, florin, shilling, sixpence and threepence.
Given that a total of 773 of the larger sets were issued and 539 of the smaller sets, these are not exactly rare. However, the coins are much admired and the £5 piece in particular has become increasingly expensive in the past decade. In a strong market for the best-preserved English gold coins, it is not unusual for a good example to bring more than £20,000 – a tenfold increase on what it might have made at the turn of the 21st century.
All of which made the two complete 1893 proof set offered by Roseberys London on November 17 appear rather good value at their estimates of £2000-3000 each. They had good provenance too having come for sale as part of and 85-lot consignment from the Schroder merchant banking family. Most had come from the descendants of Baron Bruno Schroder (1867-1940), the nephew of celebrated Victorian collector Sir John Henry Schroder.
Despite the lowly expectations, the presentation sets both sold well, taking £90,000 and £75,000.
5. Silver presentation model – £6000
This fine First World War silver presentation model of the Vickers FB5 or Gunbus made by Goldsmiths & Silversmiths Company (London 1916) was sold together with two related photographs plus a copied letter of provenance at Dominic Winter in South Cerney on November 23.
Ordered for the Royal Flying Cops in 1915, the FB5 was the world’s first operational fighter aircraft: a two-seat military biplane armed with a single .303 Lewis gun.
This bespoke silver model was specifically commissioned by Vickers as a gift to Percy Maxwell Muller, the works manager of Vickers Brooklands. The model is separately hallmarked in nine locations including the wheels and rotating propeller. Estimated at £3000-5000, it sold for £6000.
6. Edwardian jockey brooch – £600
Dreweatts’ November 23 sale of Fine Jewellery, Silver, Watches and Luxury Accessories included jewels from the collection of Renée Louise Marie de Rothschild (1927-2015). The daughter of Anthony Gustav de Rothschild (1887-1961), she married former British Olympics show-jumping champion Peter Robeson OBE (1929-2018) and together they operated a stud in Buckinghamshire.
Many of the jewels in the collection reflect a passion for horses, including this Edwardian enamel and diamond horse and jockey brooch created in the form of St Amant, a British thoroughbred owned by Leopold Nathan de Rothschild (1845-1917). St Amant’s racing career was short-lived, lasting only three years, but included a win at the 1904 Derby.
The brooch, probably made that year, sold at £600, the lower end of expectations.