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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 July, 2004, 07:38 GMT 08:38 UK
Roman glass sets auction record

A Roman bowl has become the most expensive piece of ancient glass ever sold at auction.

The piece sold for 2,646,650 at Bonhams in London on Wednesday. It was bought by a telephone bidder.

The Constable-Maxwell cage-cup dates from the third century and is decorated with a delicate lattice design. It has survived intact for 17 centuries.

It is the third time the item has set the record for the highest price paid for a piece of ancient glass.

Joanna van der Lande, head of antiquities at Bonhams, said it was likely the glass bowl, thought to have been a grave object, would have originated in the eastern Mediterranean.

It's something that would have been highly important in its day
Joanna van der Lande, Bonhams

Ms van der Lande added: "It's exceptionally fragile and cut from a single block of glass.

"It's something that would have been highly important in its day.

"It would have been clear, but has become iridescent due to a chemical reaction between the earth and the glass.

"Its probable use was as an oil lamp suspended by a metal collar around the rim and light would have come through the lattice work.

"It's really a very highly prized piece."

Egyptian statue

In 1979, Andrew Constable-Maxwell, a British collector, sold it for a then-record price of 520,000.

The cage-cup went on to be sold in 1986 for 2.1m when it was auctioned by the British Rail Pension Fund.

It was one of 25 glass objects and artefacts sold at Bonhams' London saleroom, fetching a total of 6m for the anonymous seller.

Other sale items included an Egyptian basalt block statue of a general from the period 1,664 - 610BC, which sold for 666,650, and an Anglo-Saxon bucket which made 116,650.

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