The Personal Archive of Louis Osman, Goldsmith and Architect

Date of Auction: 27th March 2018

Sold for £550

Estimate: £300 - £500

Louis Osman Archive: A selection of designs for silver work, including the design of the crest for the borough of St Edmundsbury, 77cm x 52cm, a full colour and gilt design of the Bury St Edmunds charger, together with further details of various coats of arms included on the piece; designs and details relating to the bog oak and silver bowl commissioned by Sir Edward Hall; designs and sketches relating to a waterlily bowl commissioned for P. Jenkins; and designs for an enamelled cigar box commissioned by Sir Edward Ford, 70cm x 50cm, together with photographic slides of the finished pieces. £300-500


In 1975, the late alderman Robert Olle bequeathed a legacy to the civic council of St Edmundsbury for the purchase of civic gold and silverwork. The council decided to commission a charger from Louis, specifying that the piece portray “the conception of the meeting of the barons at the high altar in the present Abbey gardens to enforce the granting of the Magna Carta”. The 25 inch silver charger is centred with an enamelled depiction of the coat of arms of St Edmundsbury, newly granted when the borough was formed in 1976. Surrounding this are enamelled shields of all 27 barons, who persuaded King John to sign the Magna Carta. The charger remains a centrepiece of the borough’s treasury.

In 1985, the Prime Warden of the Goldsmiths’ Company was Professor Hall, the founder of the Oxford University Research Laboratory for Archaeology and a leading light in the field of radio carbon dating; to commemorate his year in office, he commissioned a bowl. Louis acquired a piece of Methwold Fen bog oak spending three years drying it slowly (to prevent splitting), which Professor Hall radio carbon dated to 2800BC. Louis designed for this bog oak to be turned into a bowl and mounted in a mercurial gilt silver mount, with a presentation inscription. The piece remains in the Goldsmiths’ Company collections.
See: Treasures of the 20th century, Goldsmiths’ Company exhibition, cat no 274.

Peter Jenkins retired as Clerk of the Goldsmiths’ Company in 1988 and as a retirement gift the Company commissioned a mazer bowl (medieval lidded drinking vessel) from Louis. The bowl is made of pale golden laburnum wood, the lid of silver gilt on a titanium core. Louis visited Bodnant Gardens in North Wales to study rare yellow water lilies as inspiration for the cover. The final piece is a demonstration of the master craftsmanship of Louis’s enamelist wife Dilys.

In commemoration of 1979, his year in office as the Prime Warden of the Goldsmiths’ Company, Sir Edward Ford commissioned a fine cigar box from Louis. The box is made of heavily beaten Britannia silver and opens to reveal a polychrome enamelled three dimensional representation of the Goldsmiths’ Company coat of arms to the inside lid.

See Treasures of the 20th century, Goldsmiths’ Company exhibition, cat no 273.