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LONDON - A rare early collection of silver religious ornaments from the oldest synagogue in the English-speaking world goes under the hammer next month at Bonhams, one of the world's oldest and largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques.
The artefacts, which include decorative Torah scroll items, are part of a private collection but originate from Plymouth Hebrew Congregation's synagogue built by Ashkenazi Jews in 1762 and are set to be auctioned by Bonhams on November 25.
The items to be auctioned are a collection of silver Torah finials or rimonim (pomegranates), pointers and breastplates. They include a rare set of finials and a pointer made by John Robins in London in 1783. It is expected to fetch Â£50,000 to Â£60,000 in the auction.
"The Torah pointer is another ritual ornament used in Jewish prayer and Bonhams is fortunate to be able to offer a matching Torah pointer made at the same time as the pair of silver rimonim, making this the earliest and rarest set of English ritual Torah furnishings to have come up for auction," said Nicholas Shaw, head of silver at Bonhams in London.
There is also a silver Torah breastplate made in Warsaw, dating from around 1820-1830, with a later inscription relating to the celebration of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. This is expected to go for from Â£1,500 to Â£2,000.
A superb provincial Torah shield made in Exeter in 1750 by William Parry and Jason Holt add greatly to the significance of this collection and is expected to sell for Â£4,000 to Â£6,000.
There are other examples of Torah pointers - one from Exeter 1802 by Samuel Levi and a 19th century pointer by Simon Harris made in London in 1813. Both are expected to fetch between Â£3,000 to Â£5,000. An 18th century Torah pointer made in Berlin in 1765 by Jurst and Cois is expected to fetch between Â£1,500 to Â£2,000.
In the collection there are many other examples of silver rimonim made in London between 1913-1931, with interesting inscriptions relating to the Plymouth Hebrew Congregation.
"A Jewish community was present in Plymouth by the mid-18th century, and were known to have been meeting regularly for services by 1745," Shaw said. "Plans to build a synagogue had begun by 1759. The members were immigrants, primarily from the German lands and the Netherlands."
There is also a 19th-century silver spice box, used for havdala, with filigree decoration and an inscription dated 1844.