. December 21, 2007

On Monday 3 December, at an auction of fine jewellery in Sydney, Bonhams & Goodman sold an important 19th century gold box, with original ownership attributed to King Ludwig I of Bavaria for AUD$234,000.

With a pre-auction estimate of $24,000-30,000 auction attendees were aghast when it eventually sold to a telephone bidder for $234,000 – over 9 times the low-end estimate. “We knew the box was important yet the level of bidding was far more enthusiastic than we were expecting,” said Gary Draper, National Head of the Jewellery at Bonhams & Goodman. “International telephone bidding took the price well over estimate, proving that international marketing and networking with our parent firm in London, Bonhams, brings international buyers to our Australian sales.” added Draper.

Bidding on the box was strong with keen interest from telephone bidders in London, Switzerland, Russia and Adelaide. The hammer finally fell to one of the international bidders, a prominent collector who wishes to remain anonymous.

163_0_thumb.jpgThe hinged gold box measures 100 x 75 x 45mm and is ornately sculptured and engraved. It is made of 14ct gold and has a harlequin patterned blue enamel oval centre section. A diamond set initial ‘L’ is intertwined with the number ‘1’ below a diamond set crown. Some 84 diamonds also add to the decorative nature of the box. The workmanship is outstanding and clearly the box was crafted for a very important person. Evidence suggests that the box was either made for, or commissioned by, King Ludwig I of Bavaria (1786 – 1868). How it came to Australia is a mystery but speculation has it that it may have been brought over by the infamous Lola Montez (AKA Elizabeth Rosanna Gilbert), an exotic dancer who had been the mistress of King Ludwig I. Montez moved to Australia to chance her fortune entertaining diggers during Australia’s gold-rush of the 1850s. By all accounts she was most successful!

In recent times the provenance of the gold box can be traced to Leo Steiner, a prominent estate jewellery dealer who traded in Sydney from the late 1960’s to the early 80’s. Steiner was well known for his excellent eye and passion for Russian and Continental gold and silver. The box was acquired from Steiner by the late husband of the current owner in the late 70’s and it has been in the same family’s hands ever since.

In recent times there has been much attention paid to Australian auction houses and record art prices. Last night’s jewellery auction in Sydney emphasises the growing secondary market for fine jewellery and Bonhams & Goodman’s leadership in this field. The auction totalled over $1.4 million. “This has been our most successful auction and the best result of any jewellery auction held in Australia. Although we hold the Australian jewellery auction record, this latest result has smashed it”, said Draper. This year Bonhams & Goodman launched its new jewellery department in Melbourne headed by Patti Sedgwick, a well known jewellery specialist in that city. In 2007 Bonhams & Goodman has turned over a total of $4.5 million in jewellery, more than double the sum total of jewellery sales of its nearest rivals.

Category: Auction News

Comments are closed.