Colonial era silverware from old Indian homes are set to go under the hammer in a sale of 'Historic Silver' for the growing tribe of vintage artifact collectors, who are investing in silver items in the uncertain art market.
Bid & Hammer, a Bangalore-based auctioneer, will sell 244 silver items - decorative artifacts, kitchenware and heritage icons dating from 17th century - at Hotel Imperial in the national capital Aug 26 to "connect to new buyers in the north Indian markets".
"Unfortunately, when people in India think of art, they think of contemporary paintings. They cannot relate to anything other than painting," Maher Dadha, chairman and managing director of Bid & Hammer, told IANS.
"Paintings contribute less than 50 percent of the overall trade. The remaining items are collectibles," he said.
Dadha, who set up his auction house in 2007, said the recession had hit the contemporary art market but the market for utility art and antiquities had remained untouched.
"Auctions fetched good prices on silver and other products. That is why we are here. Our role is to create new breed of buyers. Rather than the rich collectors from traditional homes, we are trying to whet the appetites for antiquities of new moneyed people. Not many people have tried the trade in India," he said.
Nearly 20 percent of his "current sales are coming from young buyers," Dadha said.
The auctioneer said sourcing antique silver was easy because many people had sold their old family mansions in the last 20-30 years.
Dadha said has been receiving steady enquiries about the auction since it was announced last week from prospective sellers who want to dispose their family silver.
A preview of the items in the national capital revived nostalgia of the British Raj. The collection displayed ranged from intricately crafted sterling and beaten silver artifacts which glittered as new, defying a century of wear and tear.
The kitchenware on sale was of British make from the engineering hubs of Sheffield, Birmingham and Chester, their art deco and Victorian designs bordering on classicism.
Contrasting the British elegance were religious artifacts and Indian ceremonial procession masks made in 1870 depicting the sun and the moon gods.
The sun god was depicted as 'Suryamukhi' - a flower-shaped deity - while the moon god was carved as a spotted deer over a semi-circular half moon.
A silver model of the Oriental Life Insurance Company building crafted in 1930 attracted attention for its detail and finesse.
The prices range from Rs.30,000 to Rs.150,000.