Archibald Knox for Liberty & Co. gold and enamel necklace, circa 1900-1904 Archibald Knox for Liberty & Co. gold and enamel necklace, circa 1900-1904

With its sinuous lines and double chain form it is one of the finest examples of Knox's designs to have been discovered in the last ten-to-fifteen years, the only previous record of it being a partial pencil sketch appearing in the Liberty Sketch Book (number 8021). Leading Knox specialist Stephen A. Martin had never seen this example in the flesh before and was excited at its discovery immediately requesting that he could include it in his new Archibald Knox anthology.

P521 Original drawing in the Liberty & Co Sketch Book

It comes for sale from the direct descendants of the Liberal Party politician Hilda Runciman (née Stevenson), Vicountess Runciman of Doxford. Born in Westoe, County Durham, the fifth daughter of James Cochran Stevenson, a Liberal MP for South Shields, Hilda was educated at Girton College, Cambridge where she was awarded a first class honours in history. The college itself was an important focus point for the advancement of women in a men's world and prided itself on equality.

Hilda_Runciman Hilda Runciman , Vicountess Runciman of Doxford
Image via Illustrated London News

By repute this daring necklace, fashioned in the Celtic revival style made famous by Knox and Liberty, was given to her by the college in appreciation of her fundraising endeavours and would have been a fitting gift for a woman at the vanguard of social change in Britain in this period.

about-1 Liberty & Co. on Regent Street in London at the forefront of avant-garde design in the 20th Century
Image via Liberty & Co.

In the 1920s, she served in the north east as one of the first woman magistrates, before taking on more political roles. She sat on the executive committee of the Women's National Liberal Federation, chaired the Westminster Housing Association, and was a founder of the Westminster Housing Trust. She became an MP for St. Ives, Cornwall in 1928, although only remaining in Parliament for one year, before handing the seat to her husband Walter Runciman at the 1929 general election.

She herself fought the election for the Liberals in Tavistock, but narrowly failed to gain the seat by just 152 votes.

Liberty & Co signed silk Liberty & Co signed silk

The necklace, which comes in its original case signed to the silk Liberty & Co. Ltd., Regent Street, London comes to sale at Mallams' specialist design auction in Oxford on 10 December with an estimate of £5 000 to £7 000.