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Leslie Durbin English Mid-Century Modern Sterling Silver Coffee Service with Tray, London, 1967/68

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Leslie Durbin was an exceptional designer and silversmith; examples of his work are very rare. This spectacular commissioned coffee service is of striking modernist design.

The beautiful set consists of a tall coffee pot, tea pot, creamer, sugar, sugar tongs and tray. The bases of the feet are made from two circular sheets of varying widths soldered together to create a small step around the exterior of the foot. This flat section is soldered to a conical neck which is then applied to the bodies.

All the pieces are hand-raised and shimmer with light hammered surfaces. The coffee pot is very impressive with its slender, tall form. The vasiform body is an unusual and very artistic design. One characteristic of great design is the conveyance of visual movement in an object. From the flat base traveling upwards, one sees how the pedestal base goes in, then expands outwards, tapers back inwards and then flares outwards again at the neck. The curved handle and the protruding spout are also dramatic in their design.

Boldly shaped, the domed lid features an amazing technically innovative hinge. The cover fits with incredible precision within the top of the body while the hinge is actually .75 inches up the handle. One can see the join cut out of the front of the handle into which the cover closes.

The insulators and finials are ebony. The insulators are pinned into the handles and the finials have pins traveling through their core attaching to the covers.

The tray is wonderful. It is oval with a tapered gallery edge which is narrow in the front and back and higher on the ends. The edge is reinforced underneath with an applied band. In the center of the tray is an artistically engraved cypher. It is actually an intertwined 'Z' and its reverse image. This is used on all the pieces and was brilliantly used to create the unique sugar tongs.

Leslie Durbin is considered one of Britain's great mid-century silversmiths. After working as an apprentice and then journeyman for the important arts & crafts master Omar Ramsden, Durbin continued his training with a scholarship from the Goldsmiths' Company where he studied modelling.

Most of his important work was produced for private commissions; he considered his best work to include creative elements associated with his clients - such as these highly creative tongs and cypher. His commissions can be found in important government, corporate, private and museum collections, including the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

Provenance: Commissioned by Vincent C. Ziegler (1911-1979), President and Chairman of The Gillette Company 1964-1975.

This magnificent service is fully hallmarked. The coffee pot measures 12.25 inches tall and the tray measures 23.5 inches long by 14 inches wide. When we received this service, the handle to the coffee pot had ivory insulators, one of which was broken. We replaced all the ivory in the service with exact replicas in ebony. The complete service weighs an exceptional 157 troy ounces and is in excellent condition.