A George II Silver Coffee-Pot, Mark of Paul de Lamerie, 1738. 10.3/4 in. (27.3 cm.) high; gross weight 34 oz. 12 dwt. (1,075 gr.). The arms are those of Lequesne impaling Knight, for Sir John Lequesne (1687-1741) and his wife Mary, née Knight, whom he married in 1738. Estimate: £3.5 million – 4.5 million. Photo: Christies Images Ltd 2013.

LONDON.- With an estimated 1.6 billion cups of coffee being consumed worldwide each day, Christie’s London presents the most important coffee-pot ever to come to the market in The Exceptional Sale on 4 July 2013 (estimate: £3.5 million – 4.5 million). This Rococo masterpiece by Paul de Lamerie (1688–1751) - the greatest silversmith working in Britain in the 18th century - is expected to become the most valuable piece of English silver ever to be sold at auction. The George II silver coffee-pot was created in 1738, for a successful merchant. This exceptional piece of craftsmanship has recently been the centerpiece of the British Silver exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum in New York. 

Lamerie’s works have been prized above all others for the last two hundred and fifty years. He was apprenticed to his fellow Huguenot Pierre Platel in 1703, becoming free of his master in 1711. Within six years he was described as the King’s Silversmith. This coffee-pot is the masterpiece of de Lamerie’s highly developed Rococo period and is a tour-de-force of design and execution. 

The coffee pot was commissioned by London based trader and fellow Huguenot Sir John Lequesne. As a child, Lequesne came to Britain as a refugee with his younger brother, fleeing Rouen like so many of his fellow Protestants. It was arranged by their father that they would lodge with a Spanish merchant in London; the brothers would never see their father again, he died tragically from an illness after having been imprisoned for his beliefs. The Lequesne brothers prospered; John became free of the Grocers’ Company and David the Salters’ Company. They later set up business together trading with the West Indies. John not only became an Alderman of the City but was also a director of the Bank of England, and was knighted by King George II in 1737. A successful marriage, bringing a dowry of £20,000, and an equally successful career enabled him to commission this most magnificent of coffee-pots from the greatest silversmith of the day. The coffee-pot, inspired by French forms and conceived in the new French Rococo style, speaks of his ancestry. Its presence in the ownership of a successful merchant epitomises the vibrancy of 18th century trade in London. 

The first London coffee house was opened in 1652 by a member the English Levant company which traded with Turkey. Pasqua Roseé had served in Smyrna (now Izmir) and had acquired a taste for the dark stimulant drink. Coffee’s many virtues, both real and imagined, were extolled by printed handbills; they also warned of a sleepless night if consumed too late. Each coffee house had its own particular clientele, some were literary, some political, others concerned with shipping and others finance. From the coffee house came the Gentleman’s Clubs and City institutions such as the insurance market Lloyds of London. These unofficial meeting places were disapproved of by the establishment; King Charles II tried to censure them in 1675 to no avail. 

By the 18th century the practice had acquired polite acceptance and coffee was being consumed at home from silver and porcelain pots. It was usually served black and from long spouted vessels. There was also a fashion for taking it in the Turkish manner, with large quantities of sugar syrup used in the preparation. Contemporary accounts survive for ‘Turky Coffee Pots’ with short spouts, as used by Lamerie for the present coffee pot; the short spout meant viscous liquid flowed freely. 


A George II Silver Coffee-Pot, Mark of Paul de Lamerie, 1738. Estimate: £3.5 million – 4.5 million. Photo: Christies Images Ltd 2013.