Something old: pick up an antique wedding gift with a rich history

Forget the wedding list, ditch the cold cash option and give a piece with staying power

 

With wedding season in full swing, many guests are faced with the dilemma of choosing gifts. Not everyone wants to give cash, or tackle an online wedding list. Gone are the days when couples needed practical gifts such as toasters, pots and pressure cookers, and unless specifically requested, cash can be a bit too familiar.

 An unusual item in the upcoming fine jewellery auction at O’Reilly’s on Francis Street, Dublin on April 17th is lot 200, a rare antique diamond, ruby and emerald picture frame set in 18ct gold. While the estimate of €12,000-€22,000 is well beyond most budgets for a wedding present, the piece which has over 16ct of diamonds, was in fact a wedding present to the vendor’s parents in the Far East in the mid 1950s.

The piece is similar to a hand-held mirror sold by Christie’s in 2012, so much so that the frame is thought to have been part of an original vanity set. The small mirror achieved $60,000 (€53,000) in New York, multiples over its estimate of $15,000-$20,000.

Another upcoming lot, if there are no budget constraints, is a diamond and aquamarine Fabergé tiara – a wedding gift from the Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin to his bride Princess Alexandra of Hanover in 1904, when he was just 22 years old. The historic piece will be auctioned at the Christie’s Magnificent Jewels sale in Geneva on May 19th ($230,000-$340,000).

Ramble

For more down-to-earth budgets, a weekend ramble around some of Ireland’s antique shops can provide an interesting day out, as well as finding a unique gift.

Selection of 19th century Italian passata bowls prices, €200 -€250, Straffan Antiques, Kildare.
Selection of 19th century Italian passata bowls prices, €200 -€250, Straffan Antiques, Kildare.

At Straffan Antiques in Kildare, a selection of antique Italian passata bowls, dating from the 1880s are priced at €200-€250 each. They would make a great gift for cooks or indeed green-fingered tomato growers.

Edwardian silver-plated fruit knives and forks with mother-of-pearl handles by Evans of Cork, €200 Michael Connell Antiques
Edwardian silver-plated fruit knives and forks with mother-of-pearl handles by Evans of Cork, €200 Michael Connell Antiques

Michael Connell on Francis Street has a lovely set of boxed silver-plated fruit knives and forks with mother-of-pearl handles for €200. He also has what he terms a gift “for the couple who have everything” – including a sense of humour, which is a 1.2m-tall Bakelite elephant which he calls Dumbo 2K.

Elephants are in vogue at the moment; the recent Daydreaming sale of photographs in the Goldstein collection by Christie’s in New York saw Richard Avedon’s photograph Dovima with Elephants sell for $615,000 ($350,000-$550,000). Connell is willing to haggle on the price of his elephant – which is €1,950.

German silver Wager Cup from 1896, €695, The Silver Shop Powerscourt Centre.
German silver Wager Cup from 1896, €695, The Silver Shop Powerscourt Centre.

An unusual item at the Silver Shop in Powerscourt is a German silver Wager cup from 1896 (€695), where traditionally the base of the cup, in the shape of a dress, is to hold wine for the groom, with the tiny cup at the top for the bride. While totally at odds with gender equality, sipping wine from this goblet it is a Germanic tradition dating back to the 1500s.

Also at the Silver Shop is a set of eight solid silver napkin rings (€995) by the late silversmith Marika Murnaghan. A native of Sweden, Murnaghan moved to and married in Ireland in the 1960s. Her work is exhibited at the National Museum of Ireland, and she also designed the first platinum piece (a comb) to have an Irish hallmark.

For brides and grooms with a penchant for literature, De Burca Rare Books in Blackrock, Co Dublin, has Maxims of Love by Stendhal (Marie-Henri Beyle) a 1906 edition in both French and English (€375). Incidentally, Stendhal Syndrome, the psychosomatic condition whereby rapid heartbeat, fainting and dizziness are said to occur in individuals exposed to great artworks, takes its name from the author.

Alternatively a gift voucher for one of the many art galleries throughout the country is another option. Clubbing together with a group of friends for a more significant amount, allows a couple to purchase a forever piece – by which you will always be remembered, and a unique and more thoughtful alternative to ubiquitous high street vouchers.

See iada.ie, adams.ie, oreillysfineart.com, michaelconnellantiques.com, christies.com, straffanantiques.com, silvershopdublin.com, deburcararebooks.com and visualartists.ie

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