AT 2:00 P.M.
BLUEJOHN FROM THE COLLECTION OF BENJAMIN F. EDWARDS III
First recorded in the late seventeenth century, Blue John, or Derbyshire Spar, to note its geological term is a natural coloured fluorspar found near Castleton in Derbyshire, England. The use of this wonderfully coloured mineral became increasingly popular in the second half of the eighteenth century, being fashioned into decorative objects and used for architectural purposes in decorative schemes. One of the first pioneers of this type of work was Robert Adam who is recorded as having used 'Blue John' for inlay in the interiors of nearby Kedleston Hall for Lord Scarsdale.
Whilst this aspect of the use of 'Blue John' is less well known, its
use is most celebrated in the work of the Birmingham silversmith and ormolu-manufacturer Matthew Boulton. Boulton wrote to John Whitehurst of Derby in December of 1768 stating that he had 'found a use for Blew John which will consume some quantity of it. I mean that sort which is proper for turning into vases.' In March of the following year Boulton purchased 14 tons ¾ cwt of this prized stone from John Platt at Castleton for the then substantial sum of £81 1s 6d. Undoubtedly much of this quantity of stone was destined to be mounted with his exquisitely worked ormolu which has for centuries graced homes in the form of elegant candelabra, urns, candlesticks and perfume burners which are now so highly prized by today's collectors.
Boulton was however not alone in his use of the Derbyshire mineral and there are records listing several further Derbyshire makers listed in both the late eighteenth century and into the nineteenth century , including James Shaw and Vallance both of Matlock who produced vases of monumental scale.