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Antiques/collecting: Chance to drink in the beauty of rare gold cup; Collecting by Harry Hawkes.

Byline: Harry Hawkes

A solid gold ancient ceremonial cup, described by experts as 'one of the most significant 20th century archaeological discoveries' is expected to sell for about half a million pounds when it comes up for sale in London on Wednesday.

'The rarity of such an item cannot be over emphasised,' said an expert at Sotheby's at whose headquarters in New Bond Street, Wednesday's auction is due to take place. 'It is certainly the highlight of our bi-annual 'Arts of the Islamic world' sale.'

He added: 'It is virtually unknown for an object of such rarity and value to come onto the open market, giving an opportunity -probably only once in a lifetime chance -for a major private collector or a leading public institution to acquire an artefact virtually unknown outside museum collections.' He continued: 'The discovery of this gold cup can be paralleled with the celebrated gold of Troy, excavated by the German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann in 1874.

'This treasure was cut from under the foundations of the Palace of King Priam of Homeric legend, one of the great archaeological discoveries of the 19th century.'

So, where was the gold cup being sold by Sotheby's found?

The story of its discovery begins in 1917 on the island of Umbras, ruled by the Turks and just a short boat trip from the site of the ancient city of Troy. Nearby were the beaches of Gallipoli where in 1915 British troops suffered one of their most bloody battles of World War One. A British naval officer, Lieutenant-Commander H D George was drafted out there as Officer Commanding to oversee the planning and construction of the graves and memorials for those who had fallen there two years earlier.

During the checks on the labourers' work, Lieut-Cmdr George was examining various bits and pieces, mainly of pottery, which were old and interesting. However, it was one of the bigger pottery items -a seemingly undamaged amphora -on which his attention focused.

Closer examination showed that there was something inside the pot, an object which was metallic and very heavy. It proved to be the solid gold cup.

It seemed likely that the grave diggers had stumbled on the burial place of a powerful Bronze Age official, possibly even that of a king. 'In importance,' Sotheby's expert said, 'although it was a smaller find, the Imbros gold cup ranks in importance alongside the 1874 Schliemann discovery and the subsequent finding by Howard Carter of Tutankhamun's tomb in 1922.'

Lieutenant-Commander George brought the Imbros cup back to Britain and four months before the end of the Great War he put it up for sale at Sotheby's.

The auction was held in July 1918 and the buyer was the father of the man who is selling it on Wednesday.

plus new exhibition halls, virtually unlimited parking, and good motorway, railway and airport services Stoneleigh Park was considered an excellent venue by DoveBid, the American-based auctioneers, and British Airways owners of the items being sold.

At the end of the sale, a senior DoveBid official at the auction said: 'It all seemed to go very nicely. The on-line Webcast internet link-up meant that we were getting bids from all over the world -China, the USA, Germany, France, South Africa and as far away as Australia -simultaneously with bids in the room at Stoneleigh.

'What is more,' he added, 'there were some real bargains compared with the prices paid in previous 'bits of Concorde' sales in London and Paris. All the 150,000 items sold in 6,500 lots, were sold without any reserve price being placed on them. 'Everything had to go,' said the auctioneer. And it did. The most desirable Concorde relics, three 'droop-snoot' nose cones sold for pounds 85,000, pounds 76,000 and pounds 65,000. The first went to Milan, the second to New York and the third to a British buyer.

The New York buyer had been the under-bidder to the collector in Milan in an earlier sale.

Two complete Rolls-Royce Olympus 593 turbo-jet engines with re-heat were sold for pounds 20,000 apiece.

A Concorde cockpit flight engineer's seat fetched pounds 1,025, a complete fitted toilet compartment for the luxury plane sold at pounds 725 and passenger seats in two-tone soft leather, complete with height and leg room adjustments and safety belt varied from a top price of pounds 1,125 a pair to a bargain pounds 400.

Collecting Diary:Today: One day antique and collectables fair from 9.30am -4.30pm at Arden Hall, Water Orton Road, Castle Bromwich. For further information ring 0121 749 3788.

Today and tomorrow: A two-day festival of antiques is being staged by Antiques Forum, the Staffordshire firm which also organises the highly successful Big Brum antiques fares in Birmingham. Open 10am -5pm, further information from the organisers on 01782 596133. Admission costs pounds 2.

Tomorrow: Sunday Antiques and Collectables Fair in the New Market Hall, Lower High Street, Bromsgrove. Open 10am -4pm, for further details contact the organiser Mr R T Slim 0121 550 4123.

CAPTION(S):

The magnificent ancient gold cup, unearthed on the island of Imbros in Turkey during the First World War by a British naval officer expected to sell for around half a million pounds in London next week.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Apr 24, 2004
Words:880
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