Antique andirons are metal bars upon which wooden logs are laid for burning in an open fireplace.
History & Description
The earliest examples were forged from wrought iron and were artistically quite plain. It was only from the fifteenth century that metalworkers began to lavish their own skill upon them.
The majority of andirons come in pairs and have guards to fix the logs in place and to prevent them from falling out. These guards are typically made of iron, steel, and copper while the most valuable examples are made of bronze and silver and are often elaborately decorated with patterns, sphinxes, animals, mythological statues, heroic figures or heraldic ornaments, such as the fleur-de-lis.
Guide for collectors
As a general rule, very few antique examples bear the maker’s name and accordingly, those that do command the highest prices at auction. Examples made by the leading metalworkers in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, such as Edgar Brandt, Thomas Jeckyll and Chippendale are highly sought after by collectors.
Due to their continual exposure to fire and high temperatures, it is not uncommon for one of the two parts to be damaged beyond repair and consequently replaced by a similar looking piece. Collectors should closely examine the two parts to confirm that they are in fact an original pair.
Antique andirons are frequently sold through national auction houses and international auction houses.
Notable auction sales
On May 4th 2007 at Christie’s in London, a cast and wrought iron andiron made by Thomas Jeckyll, circa 1878-1884, relaised a price of £90,000.
On June 13th 2008 at Christie’s in New York, a pair of patinated wrought iron andirons, made by Edgar Brandt, circa 1925, realised a price of $60,000.
On January 20th 2002 at Sotheby’s in New York, a pair of bright-cut brass and wrought-iron andirons, made by Chippendale, circa nineteenth-century, realised a price of $58,250.