On a recent episode of the BBC Antiques Roadshow, Fiona Bruce and the expert crew took the tour to the Woodburn Museum in Northumberland. The site is a former coal mine which tells the story of coal mining and the way of life of miners in the North East of England. During the show, a guest stunned expert Andy McConnell when he presented him with two glasses made by William Beilby in the 18th century and revealed the eye-popping price at which they would be sold at auction.
Fiona began: “Once in a while at the roadshow we get a glimpse into the secret world of Freemasonry.
“An organization made up primarily of male groups called lodges, each with their own traditions incorporating mysterious symbols and objects.
“Items like 18th century glasses, which offer both insight into the rituals and the craftsmen who made them.”
Looking at the glasses for the first time, Andy exclaimed, “These glasses are absolutely cream, these are fire glasses for toasting.
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“So how the hell do you end up owning these wonderful little gems?” ” He asked.
The guest revealed, “Well, I really got a little lucky. I had seen them go up in an auction, but they were just a general lot.
“They were valued at just £50-70, and I pretty much knew when I bought them what they were.
“But unfortunately they had been spotted by someone else so they didn’t go up in value but managed to win the lot.”
“What you recognized them by was the work of the Beilby family, William Beilby who was in Newcastle in 1768, that’s exactly what it says on the box.
“They were the leading enamellers in Britain, the greatest enamellers working exclusively on glass and the enameling of glass is done by, you get the compound powders.
“You get the base colors, then you grind those glasses into a powder, then William Beilby, who I’m sure made those two glasses, picks up some oil on a brush, mixes that glass into a powder on the brush , then paint each color one by one.
“Baking them every time because every glass and every color had different melting points, then using them with thin brushes painted over those details.
“So here we have the Masonic compasses and the square on the other side where this style of white floral branding around the top and they’re a well known set.
“The first we know of was bought by the British Museum around 2009 for £12,000, then one sold for £8,000 and another sold for £6,000.
“But yours I know would fetch today at auction, you would get around £16,000 a pair,” he admitted.
The guest was shocked at their price and simply replied, “Wow,” before Andy continued, “What a treat.