As a member of the Chippenham Rotary Club in Wiltshire, I have given several talks to them on many of the beautiful and treasured possessions that have passed through my hands as an experienced probate valuation professional and antiques auctioneer and expert.
One particular and very memorable talk was set to be on the subject of silver, but had to be a virtual event due to Covid restrictions. A few days before the talk, I put out a request on social media to friends and members of the Rotary Club for the loan of an assortment of silver items that I could research and then talk about. Amongst the assortment of silver discussion pieces that I collected from members’ homes was a candlestick belonging to a friend-of-a-friend and which, at first glance, I thought was not actually silver at all – until I turned it over!
Imagine my amazement when I saw a crown mark and the initials of the maker! My heart almost stopped as I knew instantly that the crown mark meant that there was a connection to Royalty. I couldn’t get home quickly enough to start the research of this exciting discovery.
I soon realised that my suspicions were confirmed and that this candlestick was very special indeed and was one of a set of possibly six made in around 1770 by Thomas Heming, who was Principal Goldsmith to King George III between 1760 and 1782. I put an estimated value on it of up to £15,000 and slept with it in my bed that night – as I didn’t have a safe in my home that is bolted to the wall!
I called round the very next day to talk to the Wiltshire owner as I doubted that his family realised the true value and significance of this wonderful silver piece. I explained to him that I believed the candlestick was quite unique, was made in the 18th century and was probably worth up to £15,000. That was when the owner, who wishes to remain anonymous, explained that he actually owned two!
With the family’s permission, I have been further researching the candlesticks poring through several antique and collectible reference books and now know that these wonderful silver candlesticks are indeed two of possibly only six made by Thomas Heming. Having originally valued the single candlestick at up to £15,000, I am sure that the pair today could be worth up to £80,000 at auction with an insurance value of around £250,000.
These candlesticks are not only a once-in-a-lifetime find, they speak about all that I hold true. When I value items, I charge for my time, not to make a fast buck by withholding the ‘true value’ of items. It was very clear from my interaction with this family that they had no idea how special their candlesticks were and I feel privileged to have been able to shine a light on that.