This magnificent, fine and impressive antique sterling silver nef* has been realistically modelled in the form of a ship.
The surface of the vessel is ornamented with impressive embossed and chased decoration replicating the details of the ship's wood texture.
The anterior surface of the ship features details replicating an antique dolphin/mystical fish design, incorporated into the bowsprit and hinged rudder.
This double masted ship retains the original hallmarked sails and jibs, conjoined with exceptional rope twist strands and ladders.
Each main sail is ornamented with exceptional engraved coats of arms.
The masts are further embellished with circular crow's nests, each accented with pierced decoration, with cast sterling silver figures climbing the nets.
The deck of the ship is accented with further cast silver figures, bearing operational stances.
The side of the ship bears the original hallmarked cast and applied anchor, conjoined to the ship via a rope twist design.
Either side of the ship is ornamented with an embossed and chased decorated panel.
One side bears a Goddess riding a leopard style creature surrounded by ancient dolphins with putto in the sky, and the other depicts a God holding arrows amidst a small vessel with further putto playing musical instruments; it can be determined that such a frieze of figures relates to a mythological event or folklore.
The upper portion of this exceptional nef detaches, allowing access to the original gilded hull; this versatile vessel could be used as a bottle holder or be used to conceal items.
The silver nef is supported by four impressive cast, functional wheels ornamented with rosette decorated spokes.
This magnificent nef retains the original partial gilding; this has diminished with age in a sympathetic fashion to an aesthetically pleasing mellow colour.
The hallmarks struck to this exceptional antique silver nef include:
Maker's mark: n (Ludwig Neresheimer & Co. Hanau, Germany)
Importer's mark: BHM (Berthold Hermann Muller)
Import assay mark: London
Silver quality/purity mark: 925 (sterling standard, 925/1000)
Date mark: h (1923)
Such magnificent and large examples of sterling silver nefs, in such an exceptional condition, are becoming increasingly difficult to locate and rare to the market.
* A nef is a dining table ornament typically used within western Europe, modelled in the form of a ship; the word nef derives from the French word used in the late 17th century for an ocean sailing ship. Ancient examples were used for drinking vessels and evolved to hold dining implements in the hollow hull - including cutlery, napkins and spices; upon grander events the hull could be utilised to hold wine and special condiments. The functional wheels of the nef allow the piece to be passed around the table, enabling guests to be severed in a more elaborate manner. Through time the functional nef lost favour, becoming a more substantial and imposing centrepiece than a part of the dining experience.
Read a brief history of antique silver centrepiece at AC Silver.