A silver lining

PUBLISHED: 17:50 16 June 2009 | UPDATED: 15:03 20 February 2013

A pair of Victorian silver sugar nips, modelled as a monkey

A pair of Victorian silver sugar nips, modelled as a monkey

Helen Murray of Bonhams in Dorridge looks at the beauty of silver

Helen Murray of Bonhams in Dorridge looks at the beauty of silver



Does anyone take sugar? The buyer of a pair of Victorian novelty sugar nips definitely had a sweet tooth when they purchased them for £920! Silver has received a lot of negative press in the last few years, many people believing that items of silver are not worth selling anymore! This reaction is not surprising since we have seen the value of silver drop to lows of 1.50 per troy ounce, but, at the time of writing, it was back to a healthy 6.05. Of course, the intrinsic value of silver will always fluctuate, whether it be as low as 1.50 or over inflated to 20-30 per troy ounce during the Bunker Hunt crisis in 1980.


At Bonhams in Knowle we have seen an increase in demand for novelty silver such as the sugar nips, which were particularly unusual because they were cast as a monkey. The characterised facial expression, with out-stretched arms and the hands slightly cupped for picking up sugar lumps created a lot of interest in the saleroom. Buyers are keenly contesting the unusual novelty items and in most cases the intrinsic value of the silver becomes irrelevant. The sugar nips weighed a mere 2.5oz!



Throughout history fashion and life styles have affected the desirability and value of objects. Many of the early 20th century artistic periods, such as Art Nouveau, Arts and Crafts and Art Deco are currently very sought-after within the silver market. The silver Art Deco four piece tea set, by E. Viners, hallmarked for Sheffield, 1949, (pictured), recently sold for 1,000. The tea set with its geometric form, engraved linear borders and ivory handles sums up the ideals the Art Deco period, and these geometric forms can be comfortably accommodated in the modern home interior.



The market for good antique silver also remains strong. Recent silver sales at Bonhams have included a number of pieces dating from the late 17th century onwards. A notable piece included in the November sale was a William and Mary twin handled porringer and cover. As the name suggests this type of vessel is thought to have been used for porridge. The piece was hallmarked for London, 1689 and decorated in the chinoiserie style. Chinoiserie was a type of European decoration inspired by Oriental designs and was first seen on English silverware from the late 17th century. The porringer encapsulates the beginnings of this style of decoration. The body has been engraved with the typical features of pseudo-Oriental figures and birds amid leaves and berries. Other motifs used would have included pagodas, monsters, and landscapes. The porringer had a presale estimate of 8,000-10,000 and sold comfortably within its estimate for 9,200.



If you are interested in finding out the current auction value of your family silver, please contact Helen Murray on 01564 776151 or email helen.murray@bonhams.com. Valuation days are held by appointment at the Knowle saleroom every Friday from 10am-4pm. Please note entries are now invited for the next Silver and Plated Wares sale on Tuesday 3rd June.




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