Scottish silver shines bright
The annual Scottish Silver auction at Lyon & Turnbull, held every August, continues to be the key draw for collectors in this field. The sale held in August 2010 was no exception, with strong international interest and some impressive prices paid for rare pieces.
Leading the sale was ‘The Barncleuch’ puritan spoon which sold for £34,800 to a private collector; a record price for a Scottish spoon. An important Scottish 17th century puritan spoon by George Cleghorne of Edinburgh circa 1653-55, it was found in the gardens of Barncleuch House.
Puritan spoons are so called because the relatively plain design was popular for only a short period during and just after the Commonweath. The survival of Scottish puritan spoons is surprisingly rare when compared to the same style and period of English examples. To date only nine hallmarked or provincial examples are known of which this spoon is the earliest. The initials are thought to be for Quintin Hamilton of Barncleuch and his wife Marion Denham. It had been exhibited in the recent ‘Silver: Made in Scotland’ exhibition at the National Museums of Scotland in 2008.
Also previously shown in the 2008 exhibition was a rare Scottish George II coffee urn which fetched £10,350. The ovoid coffee urn is perhaps the most unique design seen in Scottish silver, with no parallel elsewhere in England or the rest of Europe. Where the inspiration for this design emanates from is still the subject of debate, although the basic shape may derive something from the earlier practice of mounting ostrich eggs in silver. Only sixteen examples are known, of which some ten are in institutional hands. This example, made in Edinburgh circa 1744-59, was snapped up by a private collector.
Included in the sale were selected highlights from the Phoenix Collection, which had been put together over the last twenty years with a discerning eye for quality, condition and rarity. The collection was given much exposure in recent years through involvement with the publication of ‘The Compendium of Scottish Silver’ by Drs R & J Dietert, in which many of the items were illustrated. From this collection came a rare George II dolphin handled sauce boat by Robert Gordon, Edinburgh 1752-53, of which as few as six recorded examples exist. It sold for £4,650.
Also from the collection was a William III thistle mug by Edward Penman, Edinburgh 1701-02, which made £10,000, and the largest known Scottish silver spoon, which more than trebled its estimate and sold for £7,100.
The 370 gram impressive early Queen Anne hash spoon was made by Edinburgh maker Colin McKenzie in 1703-04. Not only the largest spoon, this was the earliest recorded hash spoon in Scotland; with the next confirmed examples both dating to 1707-08. Colin Fraser, our Scottish Silver Specialist, said “This hash spoon is remarkable on many counts, not only its extraordinary size and weight, being about the same weight as a bag of sugar, but also its early manufacture and design.”
Other items of note included a rare Elgin large mustard pot by Thomas Stewart which made £8,400. Surviving Elgin hollowware is rare and to date no other mustard pots are recorded. A Glasgow communion cup by John Luke Junior, engraved with the town crest and dated 1721, made £8,250.
All prices inclusive of buyer's premium.