Antique inkwells are typically inkwells that were produced before the turn of the twentieth century.
Inkwells were most commonly used during the seventeenth and early-nineteenth century, before the advent of the fountain pen.Brief history and description
Inkwells are small containers or jars that are used for storing ink in a convenient place for a person who is writing. Traditionally, a writer or an artist would dip their brush or quill into the inkwell in order to collect the desired amount of ink. From the end of the nineteenth century, inkwells were predominantly used for filling the tank of fountain pens. Inkwells were usually equipped with a lid which could be closed in order to prevent evaporation, contamination, excessive exposure to air or accidental spillage.
Typically made of brass, silver, porcelain or glass, inkwells took a variety of shapes that reflected the artistic movements and attitudes of the times, including Victorian, Art Deco and Art Nouveau.
Guide to collectors of Antique Inkwells
The market for antique inkwells is particularly competitive and there is a large community of collectors and online clubs and societies that specialise in these small antique items. A good source for potential buyers is Antiquewritingitems.com and Soic.com (Society of Inkwell Collectors). As the literature world becomes more dependent on computers and keyboards, there is an increasing desire to obtain these relics of a bygone era, when being able to write was a privilege and less common.
Collectors are particularly interested in antique inkwells that had once been used by famous authors or scholars, as this represents a unique opportunity to own a device that once recorded the world’s history and poured forth poems, novels and art.
Typically, inkwells made in London during the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth century are the most valuable. Numerous luxury jewellery and silver companies in London produced inkwells to accommodate the growing demands from this era’s royalty and aristocracy.
Antique inkwells are frequently sold on online bidding sites, such as Yahoo and eBay, and tend to be priced between $100 and $300. However, as with any product bought from these types of establishments, an inkwell's condition and authenticity cannot always be verified. The more expensive antique inkwells are typically sold at auction houses such as Bonhams and Christie’s, and depending on the materials used, brand and age, can be sold from $300 up to $12,000.
Notable Sales of Antique Inkwells
In October 2009, a George V parcel-gilt silver and enamel desk set, consisting of an inkwell, stamp box and matchbox, was sold through Christie's, New York, for $4,375. The set was produced by Mark William Hornby of London and was dated to 1910.
An American silver mounted glass inkwell, produced by Mark of Tiffany & Co in the early-twentieth century, realised a price of $3,250 when it went under the hammer at Christie’s, New York, in September 2009.
In March 2007, a Victorian silver-gilt inkwell, made in 1857 by Robert Garrand was sold through Christie’s, London, for a realised price of £2,645.
In April 2002, at Christie’s, London, an Iranian inkwell dating from 1884 adorned with gold leaf and carved ivory fetched a price of £10,755.