Scientific instruments hit the mark in special Australian auction collection

For enthusiastic collectors of scientific instruments, it probably came as no surprise that a Grand Orrery (lot 12) made by Hungarian refugee engineer George Gyori sold for $53,680 (Including buyer’s premium) – more than double its catalogue estimate – at Gibson’s Auctions Melbourne sale on July 11 of his comprehensive collection of Australian, maritime and exploration memorabilia.

The orrery, one of several in the auction, is a marvellous exhibition of his engineering skills, qualifications George obtained after arriving in 1957 in Australia as a refugee courtesy of the Red Cross, and a classic example of the mechanical model that replicates the orbits around the Sun of planets in the solar system – the first modern version of which was produced in 1704.

Always interested watches and unable to afford them in Hungary, George began collecting the time pieces once his general engineering business, begun in 1963, became successful. Collecting also turned to making clocks and scientific instruments and his collection is testimony to his refined skills.

A half-size orrery (lot 6), also made by George, was another auction high flyer, changing hands for $36,600.

A circa 1875 Australian colonial sterling silver mounted etched glass presentation claret jug (lot 613) and made by silversmith William Edwards sold for almost the same figure ($35,380) – again more than double its estimate.

The jug carries a shield form plaque with the engraved words ‘Mount Aitken Private Course Meeting, the gift of G. Whittingham Esq., Won By D.G. Clark’s Dog Telegraph, 31st August, 1875’.

George Whittingham sponsored many coursing events and this meeting, along with Clark and Telegraph, is mentioned in The Argus of September 6, 1875.

The son of a London silversmith, Edwards migrated to Australia in 1857 and until about 1872 ran a Melbourne business supplying silverware to major retailers. From then until 1892, he worked in partnership with Alexander Kaul producing silver-mounted emu egg trophies and several silver claret jugs.

Lot 243, a circa 1958 18-carat Patek Philippe wristwatch, brought its top estimate of $14,640, while a rare John Castle Harris (1893-1967) earthenware figure group of a koala and joey in a gum tree (lot 430) sold for $12,200.

A 17th century continental polished brass horizontal table clock (lot 18) brought a respectable $9760, the same price as a Philippa James (1893-1967) green glazed earthenware cicada and gumleaf decorated bowl (lot 492).

Lot 15, a late 19th century patented Parkes and Hadley brass tellurian and lunarium orrery, sold for $7930 – the same price as a circa 1850 watchmaker’s cutting engine (lot 36) and a rare Remued two tone green pottery vase (lot 402).

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