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Flash back: Silver tonged devil! Under the Hammer.

Byline: by John Crane of Cato Crane auctioneers

VER Yrecently, Iwas in the tea department of a well-known food emporium in London's Piccadilly. The range of teas from India, China, Ceylon and Japan is enormous. They are sold in loose form, bags, special bunches or compressed decorative blocks that look like blocks of chocolate ...but they are not!

Some very rareteas from the estates in the Far East are valued just as fine wines are in Europe and some teasare just as expensive. Really.

Help your self? The English like their tea with milk and sugar' serving milk from adelicate silver jugand sugar lumps with the fingers? Surely not! Well, not in the homes of the refined. I have often thought that the silver sugar tongs and sugar nips have been well under priced for the last 25years or so. Apiece of antique silver by a known maker for less thanpounds 30? Impossible, you might think, but it is a fact.

Attend anauction and find out. Early 19thcentury silver tongs complete with hallmarks showing the date made, the assay town, and most importantly the makers' initials can often be acquired for this price. There are thousands of patterns and designs to collect: shell and scroll, pierced-work decoration, bright cut and Art Nouveauare some of the examples that are sought after. Over the years I have not seen many very stylish examples from the Art Deco period and these might have now become rare, but there are still lots of designs left to look for.

Strangely enough, the very early Old Sheffield Plated examples arequite cheap as they are not always recognised by many people and they are also quiterare. Electro-plated examples are extremely inexpensive and may not really be worth collecting. You could start a collection with these, as the designs can be very pretty and they can be used every day if you want to' however they are not for the serious collector.

Silver sugar nipswithapin in the shafts are like miniaturecake servers or like scissors. These tend to be more expensive, but always watch out for damage and repairs to the shafts as they do bend with excessive use by those with a sweet tooth!

An American friend of mine once commented on the formality of the English mid-afternoon ceremony served in the drawing rooms or on sun-drenched summer lawns. Long may it last.

Now lump or two, vicar?
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jan 20, 2007
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