Fine and decorative art of utmost quality and rarity shared the spotlight alongside premier timepieces and jewelry at Morphys Dec. 5 and 6 auction, which closed the books confidently at more than $4 million. Holding court over the 1,539 lots of elegant antiques and luxury goods was an 18-carat gold Rolex timepiece that had created a buzz in the watch-collecting community ever since its consignment was first announced. It attracted worldwide bidder interest and ultimately sold over the phone for $578,100.
Morphy's Auction Led By A Half-Million-Dollar Rolex "Paul Newman" Watch
Dec. 5 and 6 Sale Featured A Connoisseurs Selection Of Tiffany Lighting, Including A $141,450 Poppy Table Lamp
Known as the Daytona Ref 6241 Paul Newman model in the ultra-rare John Player Special black-and-gold color scheme, the 1969 Rolex had come to Morphys directly from its original owner, who purchased it new in 1970. Every Rolex Daytona watch bound for the United States had a three-letter export code stamped on its movement. The one we auctioned did not, because it was not made for export, and that only added to its cachet, said Ron Ciarmello, head of Morphy Auctions Watch Division. It was purchased from a premier jeweler in Zurich and remained in private ownership in Switzerland for close to 50 years. All of these factors made the watch extremely desirable, and we had no doubt it would easily reach its pre-sale estimate of $400,000 to $800,000.
Other jewelry lots of special note included a Patek Philippe Ref. 3940 mens platinum perpetual calendar watch with moonphase, $61,500; an 18-carat gold and platinum necklace set with rubies and diamonds, $39,975; and a platinum Art Deco sapphire and diamond bracelet, $30,750. A lot of four 14-carat gold Victorian animal-theme hatpins in a lovely case soared to $28,290, more than 14 times the high estimate. An extremely rare circa-1810 music box vinaigrette of 18-carat yellow gold with turquoise adornments was the star of the large collection of 19th-century vinaigrettes entered in the sale. Estimated at $5,000-$10,000, it sold for $30,750.
The luxe array of American and European antique glass attracted thousands of bidder sign-ups and elicited many compliments from admirers who attended the gallery preview. The room was illuminated with a rainbow of shimmering colors from scores of desirable leaded-glass lamps. Virtually all of the important art glass firms of the late 19th/early 20th century were represented, with none more dominant on the prices-realized roster than Tiffany Studios.
A Tiffany lamp in the Poppy pattern, with lush purple and maroon flowers against a mottled blue background and a signed, decorated bronze base, led the illustrious group, selling at the midpoint of its estimate for $141,450. Following closely behind, a Tiffany lamp design whose shade depicted a profusion of jonquils and daffodils was bid to $135,300, well within its estimate range. Another Tiffany standout featured a leaded-glass shade with an intricate pattern of gentian blossoms and a single band of emerald-green chunk jewels around the skirt. Similar to a book example in Tiffany Lamps and Metalware by Alastair Duncan, it sold for $67,650. A prized Tiffany Dragonfly lamp, signed on both the shade and base, confirmed pre-sale expectations at $116,850.
Perhaps the most unusual lighting entry in the sale was a 27-inch Daum Nancy cameo-glass table lamp with images of spread-winged bats carved into the shade. Casting an eerie spell over its many suitors, it settled within estimate at $52,275.
Rare Thomas Webb figural perfumes in bird forms were crowd-pleasers, but it was a circa-1880 fish-shape bottle with a ruby-glass head and hallmarked silver tail that utterly charmed bidders. Presented in a fitted velvet box from Mappin & Webb Silversmiths To The Queen, the fancy fellow with well-carved scales was reeled in for $15,990 against an estimate of $6,000-$9,000.
Following the refined ornithological specimens by Webb, British birds from a very different sort of flock landed at the auction and quickly grabbed the attention of collectors on both sides of the Atlantic. Made by Martin Brothers around 1904, the rare double humidor consisting of a pair of scrappy stoneware avians with removable heads flew off to a new owner for $61,500.
We were very pleased with the results of this auction, said Dan Morphy, president of Morphy Auctions. Phone and internet bidding was very active throughout the sale, and it seemed that every category, even those that are very specialized, such as vinaigrettes and hatpins, performed at or near the top of our expectations.
Morphys next major event, a Field and Range Firearms Auction, will be held Feb. 5 to 8. For additional information, call toll-free 877-968-8880 or visit www.morphyauctions.com.
All prices quoted are inclusive of 23 percent buyers premium.