An exquisite piece of antique marquetry furniture from the days of the British Raj was one of the highlights at a sale in Berkshire, where it was expected to make between £5000 – £7000.
At 74 x 77 x 62cm in size, the piece was somewhat smaller than the antique dining tables usually seen in Preston. Since it was designed for taking Communion, this is hardly surprising. Of uncertain date, it was either Indian or Indo- Portuguese in origin, with inlaid calamander and ivory marquetry work. Calamander, or coromandel, is a rare and beautiful hardwood closely related to ebony, found in India and parts of East Asia. A brown-coloured wood with black stripes, it is also known as variegated ebony. Its name is derived from an Asian word meaning ‘dark chamber’.
Generally used in smaller pieces of furniture such as antique dining chairs , a Ribble Valley resident with a coromandel table in their living room should look after it well, because the trees are practically extinct today and any pieces in circulation are highly valued. The piece of antique marquetry furniture sold at Newbury was a particularly fine example of the craft, with profuse floral and foliage decoration and a central cartouche incorporating a winged griffin, thought to be an armorial from Southern Europe.
This caused some problems with the valuer because, while the armorial suggested the table was an Indo-Portuguese piece from Goa, the decoration suggested it was from a different area of India with the armorial added at a later date. Antique dealers in Lancashire sometimes stock Asian antique marquetry furniture. In Preston, look for Victorian dining chairs and other pieces labelled Macassar ebony – a common substitute for calamander.
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