Page last updated at 10:31 GMT, Thursday, 5 June 2008 11:31 UK

Gold cup auction sale for 50,000

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The auction taking place

A 2,500-year-old gold cup which had spent 60 years in a box under the owner's bed has sold for 50,000 at auction.

The cup was given to John Webber by his rag-and-bone man grandfather, William Sparks, who acquired it in the 1930s.

Mr Webber, 70, said he remembered the cup as a small boy and "it's been quite exciting finding out what it was".

Guy Schwinge, of Duke's auctioneers in Dorchester, Dorset, said the analysis of the cup spoke for itself.

The gold cup is 14cm high (5.5in) and has two female faces looking in opposite directions with their foreheads decorated with a snake motif.

Experts from the University of Oxford and Harwell Scientifics dated the gold cup from the Achaemenid empire in the 3rd or 4th Century BC.

The Achaemenid empire was based around Persia, but at its height stretched from what is now Iran to Libya. It was wiped out by Alexander the Great in 330 BC.

Two other items passed down by Mr Webber's grandfather were also auctioned. A Roman gold spoon sold for 5,000 and a "Hellenistic" gold mount with a figure sold for 1,000.

The cup had been expected to fetch up to 100,000, although Mr Webber said he was happy with the result.


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