Can you imagine how I felt when I first saw a crown mark and the initials of the maker on a silver candlestick that I had borrowed for a talk I was making at the Chippenham Rotary Club in Wiltshire? I knew instantly that the find was something special and that there was a connection to Royalty.
My research revealed that the silver candlestick had actually been made in around 1770 by Thomas Heming, who had been Principal Goldsmith to King George III between 1760 and 1782. This was verified by the image of a crown just above the maker’s mark denoting his Royal position. I estimated that the value of this single candlestick was up to £15,000.
When I told the owner of the stunning silver candlestick about what my initial research had uncovered, he informed me that his family owned not just one single candlestick, but two!
With the Wiltshire family’s permission, I continued to work on researching the candlesticks and found that they are two of possibly only six made by Thomas Heming.
The owner also told me that, in around 2006, two brothers in the family had originally been bequeathed four identical candlesticks – two each! One of the brothers wanted to keep his inherited pair, but the other wanted to sell them. In June 2006, a pair of identical candlesticks – with the same Coat of Arms as the pair in my possession – sold for £48,000 at Christies. Could the seller have been the brother that had wanted to sell his inheritance?
My research has also shown that four candlesticks were sold in December 1964 at a UK auction to an unknown buyer for £1,500. Could the buyer have been a member of the Wiltshire family that I was now dealing with?
It’s not absolutely clear how two of the candlesticks ended up with their current owner in Wiltshire, but they have been in the family for a long time. Unfortunately, though, no one remembers how they actually came to be in the family’s possession.
I believe that this remaining pair of silver Thomas Heming candlesticks are today worth up to £80,000 at auction and their insurance value would be around £250,000. It’s very clear from my dealings with the family that they had absolutely no idea how special their candlesticks were, so I am thrilled to have been able to enlighten them.
However, the family have said that they will not be selling their amazing candlesticks. Instead, they are looking to offer them to a relevant museum on a ‘long loan’, so they can be displayed in public and enjoyed by more people. They are deemed to be of historical importance in the history of silver, as well as the design in the time of King George III.
These candlesticks are not only a once-in-a-lifetime find for me – 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.