Castle-top vinaigrettes set to shine

Three much sought-after castle-top vinaigrettes are set to be among the most hotly contested lots in Cotswold auctioneers, Kinghams, upcoming Silver & Objects of Vertu sale on November 24. 

Associate director and head of department at Kinghams, Matthew Lafite, commented: “The collecting field centred on vinaigrettes is well recognised; as is the specialism of castle-top collecting. Given this, the varying scenes which can adorn vinaigrettes or card cases can become easily recognisable – however, the three scenes discovered recently did give me pause for thought!”

A scene of Folkestone harbour in Kent on a silver vinaigrette
A scene of Folkestone harbour in Kent

The first example depicts a scene of Folkestone Harbour, Kent. The scene is probably after the illustrated engraving from ‘Marshall’s Select Views in Great Britain’, 1825. Another has a top engraved with a scene of Norwich quayside, with boats on the river Wensum and Whitefriars bridge in the background. The final example is engraved with a scene of the Salon on the promenade at Scarborough, with flag flying and the headland with Scarborough Castle beyond. 

A scene of Norwich quayside on a silver vinaigrette
A scene of Norwich quayside

During the second quarter of the 19th century, with the advent of the railways and increased mobility, especially for those who could afford to do so, the practice of returning home with a souvenir of the place you had visited became very popular. And one such souvenir for the well-heeled was a vinaigrette made from sterling silver.  

A scene of the Salon on the promenade at Scarborough on a silver vinaigrette

The three examples are thought to have been almost previously unrecorded and such is their rarity, much effort was required to identify the specific scenes. Mr Lafite explained: “19th-century castle-tops survive in relatively good numbers now and some of the common scenes one encounters include Windsor Castle, Kenilworth and Abbotsford. However, the three scenes here, I must admit, I had never seen in twenty years of dealing with silver. I must have seen thousands of vinaigrettes and none quite like these before.” 

The three castle top vinaigrettes are estimated at £800-1200 each.