The Personal Archive of Louis Osman, Goldsmith and Architect

Date of Auction: 27th March 2018

Sold for £440

Estimate: £200 - £400

Louis Osman Archive: Designs for the Goldsmiths’ Company narwhal tusk centrepiece, comprising a full size side elevation, with details, in pencil, watercolour and leaf, on grey paper, 210cm x 42cm, and a further working drawing in pencil on tracing paper. £200-400


In 1966, the Goldsmiths’ Company, in a move to encourage the appreciation of the silversmith’s art, introduced a commendable scheme whereby each Prime Warden of the Company was to commission a silver centrepiece to commemorate their year in office. The first Prime Warden to take up this opportunity was Lord Runciman, and he engaged Louis. The centrepiece Louis designed is composed of a 150cm narwhal tusk, which represents a unicorn horn, a symbol of purity; the unicorn forms a part of the Goldsmiths’ coat of arms, and was further linked to Lord Runciman through his particularly interest in medieval books. The tusk, with a rose quartz cube to its base and a moveable gem set coronet counterbalance to the tip, is finely balanced on a wishbone stand, so that ‘once set in motion it will maintain a gentle movement up and down throughout an entire dinner’. The stand is decorated with a gold and gem set Goldsmiths’ Company coat of arms, and the finely balanced setting is a reference to the Goldsmiths’ Company’s role in assaying the purity of precious metals.

See: Louis Osman Gold Exhibition, Goldsmiths’ Hall, February 1971, cat no 6.
See: Osman, An exhibition at Canons Ashby, May 1974, cat no 79.
See: Treasures of the 20th century, Goldsmiths’ Company exhibition, May 2000, cat no 274.