Silver Lining, Sotheby’s

Thierry de Lachaise, Senior Director and Head of the Silver Department, Sotheby’s Paris, has absolutely no idea why Asia has suddenly developed a ravenous appetite for decorative European antique silver spanning the 15th to 20th centuries.

All he can assert for sure is: “Ten years ago there was no taste for it, singularly or in sets, in the East or the Middle East, none whatsoever.

Now we have important sales of rare and important set pieces to Hong Kong and Beijing particularly.” The world famous expert adds, approvingly, “There is a definite trend in Empire, not merely for display but for actual use.

The market may be new but it is appreciative and understanding.” If the run on silver has happened under the radar – to mix metaphors – it could be because Asian bidders for such ornate masterpieces as Thomas Germain’s superb, Rococo style silver-gilt eculle have to date tended to buy by phone or through agents and aren’t physically visible.

“Our Asian clientèle appears en masse for Sotheby’s Asian art auctions, but this developing taste, though spreading, is almost secret. Hardly anyone seems aware that our record sale of Thomas Wentworth’s Great Silver Wine Cisterne in 2010 for £3.8 million (HK$46.7 million/37.9 million RMB) was to an Asian buyer.”

Those wishing to play catch up – and play aristocrat – should note that Sotheby’s April 18 Paris auction of the Collection of Raymond et Pierre Jourdan-Barry includes glittering prizes from Filassier, Rougemaille, J.B. de Lens and that other Balzac, every bit the lapidary genius his lauded literary counterpart was.

…More stories like this are available in Quintessentially Asia.