Each of the 108 pieces is acid-etched, engraved and enamelled in the Japanese style with naturalistic flowers.
The so-called ‘Lap-Over-Edge’ design, designed by Charles Grosjean for Tiffany & Co in 1880, was among the New York firm’s most opulent output, with this service seemingly a custom-made order from c.1891.
Realistic studies of daffodils, snowdrops, delphiniums, thistles, roses and lilacs grace every handle. It matches another service discussed in William Hood’s Tiffany Silver Flatware, 1845-1905 that was ordered as a wedding present for Mary Louise Easton of La Crosse, Wisconsin, by her parents in 1891. It was previously thought to be a one-off.
Precisely which phenomenally wealthy Gilded Age individual ordered this new discovery is unknown but it came by descent from the family of US department store owner Nathan Ohrbach (1885-1972). He and his wife Tillie, who had been particularly drawn to the service because of the initial T engraved to each piece, appear to have acquired it as business boomed in the late 1920s. His book Getting Ahead in Retailing published in 1935 included the slogan ‘a business in millions, a profit in pennies’.
Consigned to Bonhams via an email enquiry, the service had an estimate of £40,000-60,000 but attracted multiple bidders, particularly those from the US looking to take advantage of the strong dollar. The winning bid of £265,000 (£334,200 including 27.5/26% buyer’s premium) was tendered by a US bidder.