Silver Crocodile Head Hip Flasks for Bonhams Sale

. June 4, 2010

Two extremely unusual spirit flasks are for sale in Bonhams Silver sale on 30 June. Made in 1884, they are in the shape of fierce looking crocodile heads with open mouths and lolling tongues mounted on ibex horns.

They are the work of master silversmiths, Sampson Mordan & Company, which made its name through manufacturing small luxury items such as the first propelling pencils. Bonhams Silver specialist Michael Moorcroft said, “It’s very rare to find objects this large by Sampson Mordan and I can only assume they were a special commission perhaps for a gentleman’s library or study.” They are priced at between £10,000 – 12,000.

The sale also features a charming George III eighteen carat gold and coral mounted child’s rattle which was probably made for presentation only as it seems never to have been used (£10,000 – 15,000); and a mid 18th century tortoiseshell and silver box with the inscription of Frederick, Prince of Wales the eldest son of George II who died in 1751, before his father, and so never became King (£800 – 1,200). The box once belonged to Princess Mary, (Princess Royal and the Countess of Harewood), the only daughter of George V and Queen Mary and, therefore, aunt to the current Queen.

Finally, there is a reminder of a vanished age in the form of two silver ‘tontine’ waiters. In the 17th century, Lorenzo Tonti launched a novel investment scheme in which a group of people invested a fixed sum into a collective pool which produced an annual income for each member until death. As members of the group died the income for the survivors increased until the last man standing inherited the whole amount. (Robert Louis Stevenson’s comic novel ‘The Wrong Box’, later a British film starring Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, is based round a tontine). Very often a piece of plate was commissioned on which the names of the scheme members and their dates of death were inscribed. The two examples in the Bonhams auction date from 1737 and 1817 and are estimated at £2,000 – 2,500 the pair. Tontines are banned in many parts of the world, including the UK.

For further sale information please go to www.bonhams.com/silver

Category: Sales

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