It really was a once-in-a-lifetime event discovering that a silver candlestick I had borrowed for a talk I was due to make to Chippenham Rotary Club about silver was actually one of a rare pair of candlesticks made by Thomas Heming, Principal Goldsmith to King George III!
The pair of beautiful, ornate silver candlesticks are believed to be two of only six originally made in around 1770 by the famous Thomas Heming.
In December 1964, four of these candlesticks were sold at a UK auction to an unknown buyer for £1,500. In June 2006, two were sold in London by an unknown seller for £48,000. The two candlesticks that I have seen and, indeed, been honoured to personally handle are currently owned by a Wiltshire family, who wish to remain anonymous. They have been in the family for a long time and no one can exactly remember how they came into the family.
Following my extensive research into the maker, design and history of this incredible find, my final valuation of the Thomas Heming candlesticks is between £60,000-£80,000 for the pair and £250,000 for insurance purposes.
It has been clear from my dealings with the family that they had no idea just how special their candlesticks were nor how valuable. However the Wiltshire owners do not intend to sell the candlesticks for financial gain nor keep them locked away unseen in a safe at their home.
Instead, they are looking to offer them to a relevant museum on a ‘long loan’, so that they can be displayed in public for the enjoyment of many more people who appreciate beautiful craftsmanship and the historical importance of the silver artefacts. There has already been considerable interest from one or two museums.
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 in valuing. I never charge based on the value of an item or items – that way customers can be sure they get a True Value.
What would an unscrupulous dealer have done in this situation? No doubt, he would have undervalued the items, bought cheap and sold expensive! I do not value for free in order to buy cheap when I know something has far more value.
My motives as a freelance valuer are principled and honest and I feel very privileged to have been a part of this wonderful journey – finding the candlesticks, researching their history, understanding the design and learning more about a prominent 18th century craftsman who made them. It is also very satisfying knowing that the candlesticks will be safely on public display for years to come. I feel honoured to have been able to give a true value of these candlesticks and help the owners to find a permanent home for them where they can be admired by the general public.