Now 97, the former head of the highly successful manufacturer of electric heating appliances, coolers and de-humidifiers Dimplex Australia, wishes to pass his collection to a new generation and as such has asked Melbourne-based Gibson’s Auctions to auction the collection over two days from 6.30pm Monday February 27 at Level 1, 885-889 High Street, Armadale and continuing from 11am Tuesday February 28.
If it hadn’t been for a serious fall in 1951 from a racehorse in Karachi, Ken might never have become a collector.
Born in 1926 and raised as an orphan, at age 12 he became a farm worker before securing a job as a stable hand with Bradfields at Flemington racecourse.
Three years later Ken was an apprentice jockey and, while World War II interrupted his career, afterwards he travelled to India and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) to resume racing – winning the first post-war race to be run on the Colombo track.
While in India Ken met and married Gloria – a union that would last 73 years – but the Karachi fall ended his racing expectations.
The couple then returned to Australia where, after a complete career change, Ken rose through the corporate ranks to eventually run Dimplex.
In the early 1970s, he attended his first auction and so began a life of collecting – first satin glass and fairy lights, followed some years later by Royal Worcester porcelain – in particular plaques by the famous Stinton brothers, Davis and George Mosley.
By the 1990s, Ken and Gloria were concentrating on French glass and pate de verre glass night lights by Gabriel Argy-Rousseau (1885-1953) and Amalric Walter (1870-1959).
The Ely collection will be sold in two sessions – the first comprising Royal Worcester and jewellery and the second Argy-Rousseau and Walter glass, decorative arts and furniture.
The highest catalogue estimate Worcester plaque is by George Mosley in 1931 (Lot 25 ) at $40,000-$60,000 while another, by Harry Davis in 1912 (Lot 15 ), is listed at $25,000-$35,000 and a 1926 John Stinton version (Lot 29 ) at $12,000-$15,000.
Many of the 64 plaques on offer carry a more affordable estimate of $1000-$4000 – much like several of the Royal Worcester vases on offer.
Standout examples include a 1909 pair of covered urns (Lot 37 ) and a pair of 1919, 1924 and 1937/38 potpourri vases (Lot 44 ) all by John Stinton – and a 1922 Harry Davis potpourri jar (Lot 50 ).
For jewellery lovers with deep pockets, towards the end of the first session is a large Ceylon sapphire ring weighing more than 22 carats (Lot 176 ) and carrying a $50,000-$80,000 estimate.
Tuesday’s sale contains the Argy-Rousseau and Walter glass collections. Of particular note among the former is lot 212, an Exotic Foliage lamp estimated at $18,000-$25,000 and a Spotlight Dancer (Lot 221 ) – while a Fish Night Light (Lot 237 ), estimate $25,000-$35,000, is a highlight of the Walter collection.