An exquisite Torah Crown which has been exhibited on loan for many years in the Sacred Silver and Stained Glass Galleries at the Victoria and Albert Museum is to be sold as part of the Distinguished Designs and Post-War Silver sale at Bonhams
, Knightsbridge on 20 November. It is estimated at £50,000-60,000.
The Torah Crown was created by the master silversmith Gerald Benney in 1996 to mark the 3,000th anniversary of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Benney, who held an unprecedented four royal warrants and made all the Royal Familys silver wedding silver gifts for the marriage of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, is regarded as the foremost British silversmith of the 20th century.
During the 1960s, he singlehandedly revived the dying art of enamelling. He travelled to Zurich to find the last of the master craftsmen. By chance, as he was walking along the street, he slipped and sprained his ankle outside Türlers, one of the citys main jewellers. The owner rushed out to help and, in the course of conversation, it emerged that he knew just the person Benney was looking for. The rest is history and Benney and his workshop of craftsmen eventually perfected the technique so well they were able to cover larger surfaces than those achieved by the legendary Russian enamellers, Fabergé. The Torah Crown is a prime example of this great skill.
The sale also features items from the Gerald and Janet Benney Collection of Silver representing 60 years of silversmithing by the Benney family.
The 37 pieces to be sold were either made by Gerald or collected by him and his wife Janet, a former journalist who became an integral part of the success of the business. They include pieces produced at the Brighton College of Art when Gerald was a pupil and where his father was principal and a mug (£600-800) by Geralds mother, Aileen, who also had a passion for silversmithing. Among other notable lots, are a highly distinctive silver service of flatware and cutlery from 1987(£6,000-10,000) and a silver goblet (£300-500) made by the businessman Sir Nigel Broakes who at one time owned the Ritz and the Cunard Shipping Line but who also had a deep interest in the art of silversmithing and was one of Gerald Benneys pupils.