George Washington’s Inaugural Ball Silk Sash, ca. 1789

Value (2010) | $3,000 Auction$6,000 Auction
Watch  

GUEST:
My mother said this was a scarf worn at George Washington's inauguration. He did not wear it; the men got these and the women got the earrings.

APPRAISER:
You have some distinguished ancestry, I should put it, right?

GUEST:
I do.

APPRAISER:
Entirely possible that you would have some family member that went to that ball, right?

GUEST:
Yes.

APPRAISER:
But you don't know exactly which one, right?

GUEST:
No.

APPRAISER:
We are looking at this, now framed and folded, a silk banner that probably was seven feet long if you extend it. And it's all folded under itself right here. It's really long.

GUEST:
I did not realize that.

APPRAISER:
When this showed up, I was so excited. Because, first of all, I love American folk art. I also love American history.

GUEST:
Right.

APPRAISER:
This piece combines a great folk design with great history. So, as you know, President Washington was inaugurated on April 30, 1789. A week later, they held a big ball down near Wall Street in New York for the President. All the ladies wore their finest. Something like this certainly would not be unusual at that. We have this American eagle, painted eagle on the silk. And it's a classic stance with the laurel branch in one claw symbolizing the peace and in the other claw the arrows, symbolizing strength. And the eagle's banner here says "E pluribus" written out in gold. There are 13 stars above that in yellow with blue outline. And up here what looks like an abstract design. Somebody else actually pointed out-- I can't take credit-- this is "G" and this is a "W".

GUEST:
Oh, my heart.

APPRAISER:
For George Washington.

GUEST:
That's fabulous.

APPRAISER:
Isn't that great?

GUEST:
No, it's better than fabulous.

APPRAISER:
It's better than fabulous because the G, if you look sideways, and then the W for George Washington. They're probably silver little bangles with glass beads. Each one is carefully sewn over the star for "GW" and the 13...

GUEST:
That is so exciting.

APPRAISER:
Isn't that neat? And above it, the French... fleur de lis.

GUEST:
Fleur de lis.

APPRAISER:
Now, a week after the major ball, Count de Moustier had another ball, the French count.

GUEST:
De Moustier.

APPRAISER:
De Moustier. Now, we don't know, we certainly can't prove it, because these relics are so rare, but to my knowledge no other of these banners exist. But it's very possible that a banner like this would have been at that ball a week later. And I've checked with several experts here-- the silk, the fine silk, is of the period. The bangles, it's all right. I've got good news and bad news. Which one do you want first?

GUEST:
I think I'll take the good news today.

APPRAISER:
You want the good news first? I think that's a good way to do it. The value, on a bad day, would be $3,000 to $6,000, and this is the kind of object that, in the right situation...

GUEST:
Right.

APPRAISER:
… could bring $10,000, $15,000 in an auction setting. Now I'm going to give you the bad news. These are costume jewelry from around... from after 1900.

GUEST:
So they aren't... Mother lied to me.

APPRAISER:
They didn't make clips like this, this ear clip, until after 1900.

GUEST:
Okay, oh, that's interesting.

APPRAISER:
Also, the metal's not gold and it's not even enamel. They're nice, decorative ear clips, but so these weren't made for the...

GUEST:
So I can wear them without feeling like I'm... all right.

APPRAISER:
You can wear them without worrying about losing them as much. But this you want to really preserve as you've always done.

GUEST:
I'm excited, really. I just love it.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Keno Auctions
New York, NY
Appraised value (2010)
$3,000 Auction$6,000 Auction
Event
San Diego, CA (June 12, 2010)
Period
18th Century
Form
Sash
Material
Silk

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