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A silver serpent curls around the handle of this silver claret jug while a snake charmer, also in silver, plays a tune on a flute. This classic silverware dates back to the 19th century and was the creation of Oomersi Mawji, a silversmith to the Maharaos of Kutch and among the best-known silversmiths of his time. On October 2, this piece will go under the hammer at Bonhams, an auction house from London. This isn't alone — 10 pieces of silverware make up the Bonhams Islamic and Indian Art auction, and the total sale is estimated between £40,000 and £70,000. Other items from the golden age of Indian silver craft that will be auctioned include salvers and containers.
The Presidency towns of Madras and Calcutta had a thriving culture of silvercraft and the Indian silversmiths continued this tradition under the British East India Company. Their designs suited European forms and they created items for European requirements such as tea services, coffee pots, claret jugs, decanters, salt cellars and pepper pots, dishes and salvers. Though the Government of India Act in 1858 brought an end to the rule of the Company and all control was transferred to the British Crown, princely rulers continued to commission ittar-daans (perfume containers), paan-daans (betel containers), gulab-pash (rosewater sprinklers) and hookahs.
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