Kathleen’s Sterling Bequest

Tamworth's Australian Silverware Collection

Kathleen Lyttleton-Taylor’s (nee Regan) gift of eighteen stunning pieces of historic silverware, made to the Tamworth Regional Gallery in 1963, includes the works of twelve accomplished Australian silversmiths. These makers originate from three different Australian states and backgrounds, which gives the collection mixed stylistic and personal influence. The work of William Edwards of Melbourne; Evan Jones of Sydney, Christian Qwist of Melbourne and Sydney; and Henry S Steiner of Adelaide, are part of the collection.

In 1924, after visiting Dublin where she saw a collection of Australian gold-ware crafted from Ballarat gold, Kathleen began collecting the pieces in the Regan Collection. Together with her husband Thomas Lyttleton-Taylor, Kathleen handed the collection on to the Gallery after almost forty years of collecting.

A number of works from the collection comprise Australian symbols or motifs popular in the late nineteenth century, including the kangaroo and emu, ferns and Aboriginal figures. Several works incorporate the emu egg into their overall design – this includes Steiner’s dressing table necessaire, better known as a ‘lady’s companion’ or a perfume-bottle holder; Quist’s claret jug; and Edwards’ inkwell – all shown here. Integrating the emu egg in historic silverware design was uniquely Australian.

The embrace of imagery, motifs and materials by these silversmiths that were exclusive to the colonies co-incided with rising nationalist sentiment that sought symbols particular to Australia to represent or express its ideal. These design features were not only attractive to craftspeople of this era but also their patrons or customers. Silversmiths like Edwards, Jones, Steiner and Qwist crafted silverware for varied purposes, including for personal, domestic and commemorative, or public, use.