By Kate Irwin
It was thought to be the only one in existence, but now a second Ptarmigan Vase, along with a leather-bound book documenting the vases’ creation, is up for auction at Sotheby’s in New York on Friday, January 20th.
The ornate 108-year-old vase, which is made from copper, silver and gold in a mokume style, was designed by local miner and jewellery designer Paulding Farnham and is expected to raise up to $600,000 when it goes under the hammer next week.
Originating in the Kootenays, the first vase, which was sold at auction by Sotheby’s in January 2011, was believed to be one-of-a-kind. But just months after the sale, a twin Ptarmigan Vase — named for the silver bird perched on its rim and the nearby Ptarmigan Mine — was discovered when an anonymous art collector contacted the auctioneers.
He told them that not only was he in possession of an identical vase, but also an illustrated book describing the vases’ construction by Tiffany’s silversmiths using the rich ore found during 1901 at the Ptarmigan Mine in the Selkirk Mountains.
The vases’ designer, Mr. Farnham, whose namesake peak, Mount Farnham, can be seen on the western horizon when driving into Radium from Kootenay National Park, was a member of the Columbia Valley’s early mining community.
He poured massive amounts of money and time into investigating the Ptarmigan Mine, which he thought would bring fortunes to his family, but in actuality left him near penniless.
Mr. Farnham’s first Ptarmigan Vase was sold to the National Gallery of Canada last year for $662,500. It is estimated its twin will fetch from $400-800,000.