Brunel's silver snuff box achieves 700% increase in UK auction

An exquisite silver snuff box that was presented to Isambard Kingdom Brunel, featuring an engraving of his SS Great Britain, has sold with excellent results as part of a UK auction.

The box, which was given to him by the directors of the Great Western Steamship Company, sold for £16,000 ($26,035) on December 8. The price achieved in the sale represents a 700% increase on its £1,000-2,000 valuation.

Isambard Kingdom Brunel snuffbox
After the SS Great Britain ran aground, Brunel's company failed


It is engraved: "Presented to Isambard K Brunel by the directors of the Great Western Steamship Company as a mark of their gratitude for his services and attention as Chief Engineer, 1846."

The box was presented just one year on from the SS Great Britain's maiden voyage on July 26, 1845, with the huge steamship setting sail from Liverpool, UK to New York. At the time, it was the largest ship on the seas, as well as the first ocean-going steamer built of iron to feature a screw propeller.

Isambard Kingdom Brunel silver snuffbox
Brunel's famous ship is now listed as part of the National Historic Fleet


The Great Western Steamship Company aimed to build a line of such ships that would be part of a regular service from Bristol, UK to New York. Unfortunately, the company folded after it failed to secure a mail contract, coupled with the the SS Great Britain running aground in Ireland in 1846.

Financially struggling himself, it is thought that Brunel may have sold the fine silver box in order to fund his latest project. It was produced by Nathaniel Mills - one of the great Birmingham silversmiths - and is believed to be a unique example of his work.

Paul Fraser Collectibles has a snuff box once owned by Lord Nelson for sale - a remarkable piece showing a scene of the Amalfi coast, with romantic ties to Lady Hamilton.

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