Gandhi's iconic spectacles attract mega bids in UK auction

Gandhi's iconic spectacles attract mega bids in UK auction

A pair of gold-plated spectacles believed to have been worn by Mahatma Gandhi and presented as a gift in the 1900s have attracted mega bids since they went on the online auction circuit, hitting a whopping £50,000 and far surpassing the initial estimate of £15,000.

East Bristol Auctions in Hanham, south-west England, said they were pleasantly surprised to find that the spectacles, dropped through their letterbox in an envelope, may have such a rich history behind it due to its connect with the leader of the Indian national movement.

Auctioneer Andy Stowe of East Bristol Auctions said: “It's a huge find of great historical importance. The vendor had presumed them to be interesting, but of no value and did tell me to dispose of them 'if they're not worth anything'.

“I think he nearly fell off his chair when we presented our valuation. It's a really great auction story - and one that we all dream of.”

Open for bids

The glasses, which are open for online bids until they go under the hammer on August 21, are said to have been in the family of the unnamed elderly gentleman vendor in England, who was told by his father that they were a gift to his uncle when he was working for British Petroleum in South Africa between 1910 and 1930.

“The vendor's uncle definitely worked for British Petroleum in South Africa, and I believe Gandhi didn't wear glasses until the late 1910s early 1920s,” says Stowe in reference to the provenance of the glasses, which are likely to be one of Gandhi's earliest pairs during his time in South Africa.

“The story that appears with the lot is exactly what the vendor told us, and exactly what was told to him by his father some 50 years ago,” explains Stowe.

Unwanted pair?

The lot, titled “Pair of Mahatma Gandhi's Personal Spectacles”, forms part of the auctioneers' Military, History and Classic Cars online sale and has already attracted much worldwide interest, including from India.

The auction lot details: “A pair of early 20th century c1920 gold plated circular rimmed spectacles by repute owned and worn by Mahatma Gandhi. The spectacles of usual form, with sprung gold plated arms and prescription lenses. Jointed by a gold plated nose bar.

“The spectacles formed an important and somewhat iconic part of Gandhi's overall appearance. It was known that he would often give away his old or unwanted pairs to those in need or those who had helped him. A rare and important pair of spectacles,” it notes.

“The uncle working for British Petroleum at the time and was stationed in South Africa, and it can be presumed that these were gifted by way of thanks from Gandhi for some good deed. A note from the vendor is included.”

Gandhi became synonymous with the iconic round-rimmed Windsor-style glasses, common during the period when he was studying law in England in the late 1800s and 1900s and were also favoured by the Beatle John Lennon. In India, this style of glasses have been associated with the historical icon ever since, often referred to as “Gandhian glasses”.

by Nadia Hatink

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