Hi-ho silver lining for those who know their hallmarks

An extremely rare and early Cork silver mug which turned up in a job lot at a New York auction house in December was bought for $6,500 by the Irish silver dealer William Crofton of L and W Duvallier, now based at the London Silver Vaults on Chancery Lane.

It is by Charles Begheagle, whose work represents some of the earliest examples of Cork silver known to have survived. The dealer would have been prepared to pay a lot more for the piece.

Charles Begheagle was a Huguenot who fled 17th century persecution to Cork following the Edict of Nantes. He is believed to have been encouraged to settle here by fellow Huguenot, Robert Goble.

Begheagle became Warden of the Goldsmith’s Guild of Cork in 1693 and died in 1697.

Hardly any of his works are known and his name would be recognised only by a small number of specialists. He favoured repousse chasing of silver and there is a theory that he may have chased the Cork Mace by Robert Goble now at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. A mug by Charles Begheagle is a prized possession at the National Museum of Ireland.

Repousse-chased with children representing the Four Seasons and marked with the initials CB, it is not dissimilar to the one sold in New York, where it was part of a group described as antique English hollow ware by Clarke auctioneers of Larchmont.

The maker’s mark was thought to represent Charles Blair and the city mark was thought to be Edinburgh. The group was estimated at $400-600.

Mr Crofton said that it is extremely difficult to value the mug, as it is so rare, but when pressed he thought it could make at least £25,000 sterling.

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