LONDON An 18th century silver Rococo coffee pot is expected to become the most valuable piece of English silver ever sold at auction when it goes up for sale in July, auction house Christie's said.
The ornate George II pot made in 1738 by one of the greatest silversmiths of his day, Paul de Lamerie, is expected to fetch up to 4.5 million pounds ($6.8 million) when it goes to auction on July 4 in London, Christie's said on Wednesday.
That sale would trump the silver wine cistern of 18th century diplomat Thomas Wentworth, which sold for 2.5 million pounds in 2010 but went instead to a British museum which won time to raise funds when the government deferred export approval.
"He (Lamerie) is the greatest name in English silver," said James Lomax, retired curator at Temple Newsam House in northern England which eventually bought the Wentworth piece.
The fluted three-legged pot is decorated with silver reliefs, including "putti" - cherub-like figures - holding coffee bush branches, a lion's mask, shells and foliage. It has a carved wooden handle.
The pot has a history which celebrates the rise of coffee's popularity in England and the Protestant Huguenot exile community who fled to Britain from persecution in France.
Lamerie was apprenticed to fellow Huguenot Pierre Platel in 1703, becoming free of his master in 1711. Within six years he was described as the "King's Silversmith".
The pot was commissioned by 18th century London-based trader and fellow Huguenot Sir John Lequesne, who came to Britain as a child refugee and became a successful businessman.
The first London coffee house was opened in 1652. They were the precursors of the city's gentleman's clubs and financial institutions, such as the insurance market Lloyds of London.
($1 = 0.6604 British pounds)
(Reporting by Paul Casciato; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)