Amber attracts international attention

Tennants’ sale of Vintage Costume, Textiles, Dolls & Teddy Bears on the 13th May saw a collection of five amber parasol handles soar in the saleroom, finally selling for £4,500 – ninety times the lower estimate. The handles were sold in a group lot alongside vintage accessories; however, it was the warm, golden-hued amber that excited interest in this lot.
Prices for good quality amber have risen ten-fold over the last decade, and auction houses are now seeing prices reach unprecedented levels. Amber comes in all shades of gold, from pale yellow to a deep, rich orangey-brown; however, it is usually strings of opaque butterscotch or egg yolk yellow beads that fetch the highest prices at auction. The fossilised tree resin was very popular from the nineteenth century until the 1930s. Later falling out of fashion in Western Europe, the spike in prices has been caused by a renewed interest in the material in China and the Arabian states around the Persian Gulf. Amber is deeply ingrained in both cultures – in China it is said to bring good luck and have healing properties, and in the Middle East it is a symbol of status and wealth, not to mention its supposed aphrodisiac properties.
Other notable lots in the sale included a rare ‘Crimean Hero’ linen damask banqueting cloth from 1857 – a piece of Victorian propaganda commemorating the victory of the British Empire in the Crimean War (1853-6). The tablecloth was offered with an estimate of £400-600, but competing bids pushed the price up to reach a hammer price of £1,300.
Overall, there was a good selection of 18th and 19th century lots in the sale, from early linen bed covers to Georgian samplers and a 19th century scrimshaw love token, which attracted interest nationally and resulted in an unusually high level of online bidding, with nearly 60% of buyers bidding online. The sale resulted in a total Hammer Price of £46,560, with 90% of the 286 lots sold.
We are currently accepting lots for the next sale of Vintage Costume and Textiles on 12th August, please contact us on 01969 623780 or for details.
Full results are available here

Amber parasol handles, part of a group lot that made ninety times the lower estimate
Sold for £4,500

Detail of the ‘Crimean Hero’ Tablecloth
Sold for £1,300