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Object of the week: cloisonne enamel desk set
Last Updated: 12:01amGMT02/02/2004
 
The ultimate writing desk accessory, made at the Faberge workshops in Russia, probably for a member of the Imperial family or nobility, will be auctioned at a stamp sale in London this week.
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The silver-gilt and cloisonnй enamel desk set was made by the craftsman Feodor Ruckert between 1896 and 1907. The intricately decorated piece consists of a tray with a pen rack, inkwell, blotter, paper knife, pen and pencil holder, and two boxes, one of which is for stamps.
The set will be sold by Spink at its stamp auction on Thursday, where it is expected to fetch Ј90,000 to Ј100,000. Yet, although one of its boxes has a lid enamelled with the designs of five and seven kopek Russian stamps, this beautiful piece of workmanship was not created for a philatelist.
"When it was originally produced, it would have been to be used on a writing desk, rather than purely as a stamp box," says Guy Croton, a specialist in the stamp department at Spink. "It was almost certainly made for a member of the Russian Imperial family or nobility, because they were the only people who could have afforded it.''
Rare: the desk set made by Feodor Ruckert is expected to fetch up to Ј100,000
In 1989 the desk set was bought by its current owner, an anonymous private collector, at an auction at Sotheby's in New York. He specialises in stamps and stamp boxes and decided to acquire the Faberge piece because it has a box.
The desk set is certainly rare and may be unique, the nearest known piece being a single Faberge stamp box, also made by Ruckert, with the same design, which fetched Ј15,000 at an auction in London two years ago.
"It could be bought by a stamp collector, a Faberge collector, or it might appeal to somebody with an interest in cloisonne enamel," says Croton.
Ruckert specialised in cloisonnй pieces at the workshops owned by Carl Peter Faberge, who was appointed supplier to the Imperial Court in 1885 and created more than 50 highly decorated Easter eggs for the Tsars between 1884 and 1917.
Spink is also auctioning a six-piece silver desk set, including a five-compartment stamp box, made in Portugal in 1893, which is estimated to fetch between Ј15,000 and Ј20,000.