Chippendale and Sheraton furniture collection
Millionaires have sighed in vain for the Higham collection of Chippendale and Sheraton furniture owned by the family of that name, who have resided in Higham for centuries The actual value of the collection of about fifty pieces is placed at £50,000, but Henry Grant the railway king, made an offer of £80,000 for it not long ago, which was refused. Some of the chairs cost £1,000 each, and date from the twelfth century.
Although the Highams work for their living as farmers, they have as yet stoutly declined any of the tempting offers which have been made for their treasures from time to time. Chairs sometimes prove expensive, and one in the King's collection at Windsor, which was once used at the coronation of the Venetian Doges and is dated 1670, cost 250 guineas; while two small Louis XIV. tables, sold by the Duke of Leeds in 1900, realised £15,000.
Pianos, too, although at all times costly, seldom fetch the prices which some millionaires are content to pay for them. Cornelius Vanderbilt gave £3,500 for one some time ago, and the Marquis of Breadalbane has one which cost only £500 less. If money is any guarantee, then the piano owned by Mr. Murand, a New York financier, must indeed be a sweet-toned instrument, for it cost £10,000.
The value, perhaps, lies more in the priceless paintings that adorn it and the patterns let into the woodwork in precious stones. Monarchs invariably spend fortunes in furnishings, and a decade ago the Sultan of Turkey decided to fit up a luxurious bedroom for his own use. The bed is of ivory and silver, the posts being incrusted with gems to represent the Imperial arms. The silk of which the hangings are made cost £80 a yard, and the tapestry on the walls is woven with gold thread and ablaze with diamonds, while even the ceiling is inlaid with gold. This piece of extravagance cost the Oriental potentate £120,000.
But probably the most expensive suite of furniture in existence is that owned by a certain Indian Maharajah. It consists of four arm chairs, three small tables and a sofa, all of solid ivory, and the suite is the more valuable because it was given to Warren Hastings by Tippoo Sahib. Five years ago an offer of £100,000, made by John Ashbury, the Californian millionaire, for the eight pieces of furniture as they stood, was refused.