• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 5087

    The Casimir Collection of Metalwork

    23 January 2008, London, South Kensington

  • Lot 237


    CIRCA 1760

    Price Realised  

    CIRCA 1760
    Each with square gadrooned base and fluted stem
    10¾in. (27.5cm.) high (2)

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    For a similar pair see Keith Pinn, Paktong, 1999, p. 37 plate 1.

    Special Notice

    No VAT will be charged on the hammer price, but VAT at 15% will be added to the buyer's premium which is invoiced on a VAT inclusive basis.

    Pre-Lot Text


    Paktong originated in China and is an alloy of copper ores with nickel and zinc. The metal was used by the Chinese for small table and decorative accessories for the domestic market. However English makers, such as Matthew Boulton, saw the potential for making candlesticks and other goods from Paktong as the metal could be cast, took a high polish and was slow to tarnish. The imported alloy was used by silversmiths and by Birmingham brass manufacturers in imititation of silverware. A page from one of Boulton's books from the Soho factory in 1769 lists twenty two 'subjects into which it (Chinese white copper) may be manufactured'.

    Once called 'Tutenag' or 'Chinese white copper' we now believe that English and European makers were experimenting with the alloy as early as the opening decades of the eighteenth century. However most surviving paktong is from the 1760-1780 period. Candlesticks are often found in paktong but other items were also created from the metal. Robert Adam designed paktong firegrates for Syon House and a 1782 inventory of Osterly Park House records the firegrate, fender and fire irons as paktong.
    Paktong died out as a product for high fashion candlesticks and other objects in the late 18th Century because makers found it cheaper to concentrate on Sheffield plate. In the nineteenth Century scientists eventually found how to make the alloy in England as a nickel silver alloy or 'German silver' but this was rarely used to make cast candlesticks or high-fashion objects.