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ARTFIX DAILY, April 25, 2011--
When it comes to last minute wedding gifts for Prince William and Kate Middleton, the British royal-couple-to-be, Bill Rau, the third generation owner of America's largest antiques and fine arts gallery MS Rau Antiques, has come up with a few pedigreed suggestions. MS Rau Antiques, located for nearly one hundred years in New Orleans historic French Quarter, has seen hundreds of museum-quality antiques, silver and fine art paintings from the 18th and 19th century pass through its doors, each with a unique provenance and story to tell. Even if a wedding gift for the Royal Couple isn't something you're looking for right now, Bill has pulled together a selection of notable, and collectible, items that are sure to please anybody celebrating a special occasion over the next few months.
Once all the royal matrimonial hoopla is over, chances are the new Royal Couple will want to escape the paparazzi. What could be more "sporting" for one of their first outings than this Motor Picnic Set ($12,500)? Owned previously by Lady Sarah Churchill who was the third daughter of Sir Winston and Lady Clementine Churchill and who starred with Fred Astaire in the movie "Royal Wedding", this fully equipped picnic case holds service for six and will up the ante for any tailgate party this coming season. Made in 1950, all the accouterments such as Brexton china and Bakelite ware are beautifully packed in a bright green leather case.
It's tempting to play up the theme of "royal tea", and while on the subject, Rau's breathtaking 10-piece Tiffany & Company sterling silver tea set won't disappoint (1890, $198,500). Featuring the famous Chrysanthemum pattern exclusive to Tiffany, this set features a two-handled tray, plus a hot water kettle and burner, in addition to three pots (one for coffee, one for tea, one for chocolate), a creamer, a sugar bowl, sugar tongs and a waste bowl for used tea leaves.
If silver tea sets are too ponderous (polishing them requires extra staff) , then another 'spot on' gift idea with a remarkable history is the London Bridge cutlery set of 24 hand-carved knives engraved with the City of London seal (1825, $34,500). Sharp enough to cut a standing rib roast, these knives were made by Weiss London using the original oak timber from the first stone version of the London Bridge, which was built in 1176. This date commemorates the beginning of the construction of the stone bridge which replaced all the wooden bridges that were built in England thereafter.
Just right for making a suitably royal impression when serving tea to a crowd of in laws is this Russian silver plate samovar, also called a tea urn (1890, $5,500). The ritual of tea drinking in Russia had long been popular before the English elevated high tea to an art form when social tea drinking hit its peak in the 18th and 19th centuries. For high society in Russia, an elaborate urn for your tea service was a very visible means of showing off your wealth. In fact, in some stately Russian homes, there was a separate room for the samovar and the serving of coffee or tea. It was also common to have an everyday samovar, and then a more opulent one for social events.
For a more low key wedding gift, or if toasting a special couple for a milestone anniversary is on the agenda, consider this double-cup, circa 1890 Traditional German silver wedding cup ($8,850). The maiden who holds up the cup above her head (the second cup is her dress) symbolizes love, faithfulness and good luck, and the design is made after a traditional Nuremburg wedding cup.