A Pair of George III Blue John and Rock Crystal Candelabra, Possibly by Matthew Boulton

CIRCA 1770

Height: 23" Width: 8.5" Depth: 7.5"

Inventory Number 8306-107





Each Derbyshire spar (blue-john) vase mounted with ormolu lion's mask handles and leaf-wrapped base, on a socle with laurel collar; supporting a lyre-form four-arm candelabra profusely hung with rock crystal pendants; on a stepped plinth and black marble base.


The design and various decorative elements ornamenting the vases of these candelabra are closely related to a number of models preserved in Boulton and Fothergill's manuscript Pattern Book I. See N. Goodison, Ormolu: The Work of Matthew Boulton, 1974, pls. 163 & 164. For similar, ibid. pls. 139–140. Also, S. Mason, Matthew Boulton: Selling What all the World Desires, 2009, pp. 178–179, pls. 171 and 173.

C. Stevens and S. Whittington, 18th Century English Furniture, The Norman Adams Collection, Rev. Ed. 1985, pp.456 and 477, pl.45.

Additional Information

Blue John is a blue/purple and white/yellow banded variety of fluorite which occurs widely throughout Derbyshire and especially in the Ashover and Crich areas. It also occurs where other fluorspar deposits have been mined and so may be found in County Durham (especially Weardale), Cornwall and Wales as well as throughout the world.

The name is popularly said to come from the French; bleu-jaune, meaning 'blue-yellow'. It is a fact that some Blue John was indeed sent to France for gilding by the French Ormolu workers of the Louis XVI period. However, they were emulating the pionerring ormolu ornaments of Matthew Boulton of Birmingham who around 1765 called the stone 'Blew John'. It became such a popular base for the ornaments that Boulton tried to lease the whole output of the Castleton mines.

The earliest dated decorative application of Blue John is its use in marble fireplace panels designed by Robert Adam and installed in Kedleston Hall near Derby in 1762.

Matthew Boulton and his partner, John Fothergill, founded their metalwork factory in Soho near Birmingham in 1760s. The firm produced fine quality silver, Sheffield plate and ormolu ornaments and received commissions from King George III and Empress Catherine the Great of Russia amongst other notables. Vases accounted for the majority of the firm's ormolu production, which also included inkstands, icepails, tripods, girandoles and obelisks.