A family had discovered a medieval chess piece, the Lewis Chessmen, in a draw 55 years after it was purchased for £5, which could now fetch for £1 million at auction! The Lewis Chessmen of 93 pieces, maybe the worlds most famous chess set, was discovered on the Isle of Lewis in 1831, in the Outer Hebrides.
Five of the pieces from the set have been missing, but the family who possess one have been told that their grandfather, an antiques’ dealer in Edinburgh, bought it for £5 in 1964. He passed it down to his daughter, who kept it in a drawer wrapped up in a bag. When rediscovered, the Lewis warder piece (the equivalent to a rook in modern chess) has been valued by auction house Sotheby’s at between £600,000 and £1 million once in auction next month.
8.8cm in size and made from walrus ivory, the dealer had no idea what he bought was worth. Despite not knowing its significance, the family treasured the piece. Sotheby’s expert Alexander Kader was stunned once he discovered what they had. He mentioned it was a bit worn down, missing its left eye, but that it added to its charm.
The Lewis Chessmen is made up of pawns, warders, knights, bishops, kings and queens. 82 of the set reside in the British Museum whilst the other 11 are in the National Museum of Scotland, being some of both the museums biggest attractions. They are considered an important symbol of European culture, inspiring so much from Noggin The Nog to Harry Potter.
Included with the set are a buckle and 14 table men gaming pieces. They were believed to have been crafted in Norway during the 12th Century before ending up in the Isle in Lewis. It is still unknown how the five pieces got separated from the rest.
Marking the first time a Lewis piece has been sold at auction, the recovered warder piece will be put up for the estimated value in the Old Master Sculpture & Works of Art sale at Sotheby’s in London on July 2. Wish them the best of luck, who knows when another of the missing pieces will pop up!