Antiques expert, Gordon Brockman, unearthed a pair of very rare candlesticks made by world famous silversmith Thomas Heming.
The candlesticks were made for Lord Arundell who, it’s believed, wanted to use them in his country home in Wiltshire – New Wardour Castle near Tisbury in the 18th century.
For Gordon, who runs his business, True Values, from Melksham, it was an unexpected and awe-inspiring find.
“I was asked to give a virtual talk about silver for Chippenham Rotary Club,” Gordon said. “I wanted to show silver items and put out a call for some to borrow for the talk. One contact said he’d got a candlestick that a friend had offered as a ‘prop’ so I went to pick it up from him. When I handled it, my first thought that it wasn’t even silver as it didn’t feel like it had the right weight. I then turned it over and saw the mark, with a crown above it – and my heart almost stopped.”
Gordon instantly knew this candlestick could be very special and he started to research its origins. His efforts revealed it was made by Thomas Heming in around 1770, who was principal goldsmith to King George III between 1760 and 1782. An image of a crown can be seen above his maker’s mark denoting his Royal position. Gordon valued the single candlestick at up to £15,000.
“I knew the mark made it significant so I contacted the Wiltshire owner – who wishes to remain anonymous – only to find the family had two. With the family’s permission, I’ve been working on researching the candlesticks ever since and I now know they are two of only a small number, possibly six made by Thomas Heming. I believe this remaining pair in Wiltshire are today worth up to £80,000 at auction and their insurance value would be around £250,000.”
Gordon’s research has shown that four similar candlesticks were sold at a UK auction to an unknown buyer in December 1964 for £1,500. In June 2006, two were sold in London for £48,000 – the seller is unknown. It’s not clear how two of the candlesticks ended up with their current owners in Wiltshire. They have been in the family for many years, though no one knows how they came into the family.
Gordon said: “These candlesticks are not only a once-in-a-lifetime find, they speak to all that I hold true. When I value items, I charge for my time, not to make a fast buck by not sharing the ‘true value’ of items.
“It’s clear from my interaction with this family that they had no idea how special their candlesticks are and I’ve been able to shine a light on that.”
The design of the candlesticks is fascinating and ornate. They are packed with symbolism around love and fertility. They have a Rococo shaped base, the stem is formed as the figure of Flora, the festive goddess of fertility, flowers and spring. She is depicted as a caryatid enslaved by love, bearing a cornucopia, which forms the upper stem and supports the drip pan and socket.
The Wiltshire family which owns the candlesticks will not be selling them. Instead they are looking to offer them to a relevant museum on a ‘long loan’ so they can be displayed in public as they are deemed to be of historical importance in the history of silver – as well as speaking of design in the time of George III. To find out more about the candlesticks visit: www.truevalues.co.uk.