1765 Thomas Pitts Silver Epergne
This was a gift to me from my godmother, who bought it on a trip that she made driving me to college. In those days, we took trunkloads of clothes and my mom and dad didn't have a station wagon, so the next-door neighbors, who were my adopted godparents, said, "Well, come on, we'll drive you." And after dropping me off, they went to Charleston, South Carolina, for a visit and they ended up buying this. And then when she was older, she gave it to me so that I could enjoy it while I was young enough to entertain.
Well, that was awfully nice. Do you ever serve any food on it or serve anything on it?
No, I've just used it for flowers.
Well, the original purpose of an èpergne was to be the centerpiece of a dessert service during what they called service à la française. As opposed to what you see on Downton Abbey today, which is called service à la russe, where you have lots of servants serving the individual dishes and taking things away. In service à la française, the people sat around the dinner table and they served themselves, and selected a piece of sugar candied fruit or some sort of delicacy from it. Every single piece of English silver had to be hallmarked with a series of marks. You have a mark for the lion passant, which means that it is English and sterling silver. You have the mark of the leopard's head crowned, which means it was made during the reign of King George III. And then the date letter, which is this Old English-style K within a shield, and that's specific to the year 1765. And the maker's mark of the initials is... the man's name is Thomas Pitts. But what's interesting about it too is that as you see, it has fruit on it. All of the decoration is fruits, which indicates the purpose that it was intended was to serve fruit in a centerpiece. If this were to come up for auction today, I would expect a presale estimate to be $15,000 to $25,000. Now, if it were to be in a retail shop, you might expect to see at least twice that, between $30,000 and $50,000 for replacement value.
Oh. My goodness, that's a surprise.
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