An ancient English silver spoon, found at the back of an elderly auntie’s cutlery drawer, stirred up an auction bidding war – and a sparkling result.
The early seal top spoon, which is believed to date back to circa 1654, was made by silversmith Jeremy Johnson of London. It’s a 365-years-old collector’s item – but how it came to be in a house in Littleover, on the outskirts of Derby, nearly four centuries later is a complete mystery.
It soared past its £500 to £700 estimate to sell to a private UK buyer for a total price of £1,212 at Derbyshire’s Hansons Auctioneers’ Fine Silver sale on October 25.
Karl Martin, a valuer at the Etwall auction house who spotted its pedigree, said: “It was an amazing find and a great result. I’m delighted it’s made the money it deserved.”
The seller, a man from Belper, Derbyshire, who wishes to remain anonymous, found the spoon when he was clearing out his late aunt’s house a few weeks ago. It was tucked away at the back of her cutlery drawer.
He said: “I’d never seen it before in my life and I’ve been going to the house in Littleover for 54 years. It stood out but I wasn’t sure it was worth anything. So, I took it to Hansons to get it valued.
“I’ve got no idea how my aunt came to own the spoon. She had no interest in antiques and was not in the least bit materialistic. She grew up on a Derby council estate in Allenton and both her and my late uncle weren’t the type of couple to splash the cash on unnecessary items.
“The only thing I can think of is that it was inherited through my uncle’s side of the family as there was some wealth there.One of his ancestors established Browns Foundry in Derby in 1869.”
Mr Martin said: “I was completely taken aback when I saw it. It was like finding a diamond in a pile of bananas. Our client brought along a few pieces of 1920s ceramics which weren’t of any great value – and then I spotted the 17th century silver spoon which he’d discovered in his relative’s knife and fork drawer. It would have been given to a couple when they married and featured two sets of initials.”
When the spoon was made nearly four centuries ago, Charles II was King of England and Oliver Cromwell was Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland.
From the Middle Ages, a silver spoon symbolised family wealth, hence the saying ‘Born with a silver spoon in his mouth’. In the 17th century, silver was often a part of a bride’s dowry.
Mr Martin said: “This is a classic example of a small, long-forgotten item turning out to be valuable. I suppose the message to everyone is check your cutlery drawers. You Just never know.
Silver invited for future sales
The silver spoon was sold on October 25 in a Fine Silver Auction at Hansons, Heage Lane, Etwall, Derbyshire DE65 6LS. More silver items are sought for future silver sales. To find out more or to arrange a free valuation, email silver specialist Victoria Sheppard: [email protected].