Udayavni Special

Gandhi’s spectacles set auction record in UK


Team Udayavani, Aug 22, 2020, 3:47 PM IST

London: A pair of gold-plated spectacles believed to have been worn by Mahatma Gandhi and presented as a gift in the 1900s have broken all records for a UK auction house by selling for 260,000 pounds.

The glasses, which were dropped through the letterbox of East Bristol Auctions in Hanham, south-west England, four weeks ago were estimated to fetch between 10,000 pounds and 15,000 pounds but the online bids for the lot kept multiplying to finally go under the hammer of the six-figure sum.

“An incredible result for an incredible item! Thanks to all those who bid,” said auctioneer Andy Stowe of East Bristol Auctions, as he closed the bid for the online auction on Friday.

“These glasses represent not only an auction record for us but a huge find of great historical importance. The vendor had presumed them to be interesting, but of no value and did tell me to dispose of them ‘if they’re not worth anything’,” said Stowe.

“I think he nearly fell off his chair when we presented our valuation. It’s a really great auction story and one that we all dream of,” he said. The unnamed new owner of the spectacles is an elderly man from Mangotsfield, South Gloucestershire in south-west England, who will split the 260,000 pounds with his daughter.

The glasses are said to have been in the family of the vendor in England, also an elderly gentleman, who was told by his father that they were a gift to his uncle when he was working for British Petroleum in South Africa between 1910 and 1930.

“The story that appears with the lot is exactly what the vendor told us, and exactly what was told to him by his father some 50 years ago,” says Stowe in reference to the provenance of the glasses, which are likely to be one of Gandhi’s earliest pairs during his time in South Africa.

The lot, titled “Pair of Mahatma Gandhi’s Personal Spectacles”, was part of the auctioneers’ Military, History and Classic Cars online sale and had attracted much worldwide interest.

“A pair of early 20th century c1920 gold plated circular rimmed spectacles by repute owned and worn by Mahatma Gandhi,” read the auction lot details.

“The spectacles of usual form, with sprung gold plated arms and prescription lenses. Joined by a gold plated nose bar. The spectacles formed an important and somewhat iconic part of Gandhi”s overall appearance,” it said.

“It was known that he would often give away his old or unwanted pairs to those in need or those who had helped him. A rare and important pair of spectacles,” it added.

“The uncle working for British Petroleum at the time and was stationed in South Africa, and it can be presumed that these were gifted by way of thanks from Gandhi for some good deed. A note from the vendor is included,” it added.

Gandhi became synonymous with the iconic round-rimmed Windsor-style glasses, common during the period when he was studying law in England in the late 1800s and 1900s.

While initially used infrequently, the glasses became a regular feature during the national movement and Gandhi’s civil disobedience protests in India.

He is known to have handed over his personal items as gifts to admirers and a number of similar items have emerged on the auction circuit over the years.

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