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Sir Winston Churchill at his desk with a lit Dunhill Aquarium Table Lighter Perhaps the greatest lighters ever made, Dunhill’s Mid Century Aquarium range are among the most sought and coveted across the globe. The staggering ingeniousness and complexity of composition of each Dunhill Aquarium lighter is a unique story. No two aquariums are the same.
One of Dunhill’s most prestigious clients was Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill. A number of photographs document Churchill at his desk with Dunhill half giant aquarium table lighters. In this picture he sits with a rye smile, looking over the flame of a lit Dunhill aquarium lighter. The lighter itself is out of focus but its form is unmistakable.
It is my absolute pleasure to present my current collection of these outstanding lighters. I have also shared a few of the lighters I have handled over the years. These I call ‘Old Friends’.
It takes great courage to buy a Dunhill Aquarium lighter. I have never once regretted the purchase, but sometimes I do regret the sales. These are great objects full of character and ‘good times’. Few objects have such power.
Ben Shillingford at Dunhill
Ben Shillingford worked for Dunhill in the 1950’s, he perfected the art of carving and painting lucite panels to resemble miniature aquariums, these panels were then applied to the lighter bodies in four sections. Lucite was developed in world war II and used by the American and royal airforce as an alternative to glass which would shatter when under fire. Following the war, the lucite that remained was eagerly sought by artists, designers and Jewellery makers. It could be carved and painted, resulting in highly decorative shiny objet d’art. Each Dunhill Aquarium lighter is unique, having been hand made the decoration of each varies considerably.
In the early period of Aquarium lighter production the panels were carved by Ben Shillingford. It is interesting to note the difference between these pieces and those produced by Margaret and Allan Bennett. Shillingfords’ early work is generally less vibrant and more simplistic with a different colour background to the side and end panels.
They used the very skilled ‘intaglio’ technique, where each layer of colour and detail is built up in reverse. By nature of how they are made, each is completely unique, and the lighters that feature under water scenes tend to be more widely known. However the non-aquatic scenes, and for example birds, outdoor pursuits, famous ships or automobiles are incredibly rare and do not come onto the market very often.
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