BIRMINGHAM, UK – The catalog has been released online for one of Britain’s largest auctions of rare Derbyshire Blue John pieces, being held at Fellows Auctioneers on Monday, Oct. 5. LiveAuctioneers.com will provide absentee and Internet live bidding.
The team at Fellows has assembled one of the finest collections of Blue John, a semiprecious mineral found only in two locations in Derbyshire, which has been mined and crafted into precious objects since the 18th century. Composed of over 250 individual items, the auction will be a major event for Blue John collectors worldwide.
“Blue John is big news at the moment following the discovery of a major new seam at Treak Cliff in Derbyshire, and we are expecting interest from around the world for this one-off auction,” said Mark Huddleston, antique and fine art specialist at Fellows.
Believed to have been discovered by the Romans more than 2,000 years ago, Derbyshire Blue John became highly fashionable in the 1700s when it was used to create everything from urns to bowls and jewelry. Examples can be found in some of England’s great houses, including Chatsworth, and it was most famously used by Robert Adam to create an iconic fireplace in the state apartments at Kedleston Hall.
The collection to be offered by Fellows features a wide range of objects from small bowls to large neo-classical vases, cups and trinkets estimated at between £30 and £30,000. The highlight of the sale is a late 18th century ormolu-mounted Blue John urn, attributed to Matthew Boulton, featuring a neoclassical shouldered ovoid body, bifurcated foliate scroll handles and a canthus-cast square base.
“There are many legends about Blue John, including the Roman belief that you could not become intoxicated if you drank wine using a chalice made from the mineral,” added Huddleston. “Even the origin of the name is a mystery, although it’s commonly believed to have come from the French bleu-jaune, meaning ‘blue-yellow,’ when it was exported to France during the reign of Louis XVI.”
Fellow’s has been working with Treak Cliff Cavern, near Castleford in Derbyshire, to appreciate the unique properties of the stone. The mine is limited to producing just one ton of the mineral per year, with no two items made from Blue John being the same. The incredible softness of the mineral means it is extremely fragile, but can be carved into shapes and delicate jewelry that would be impossible to make from other materials.