Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 3053: Smith & Wesson 32 DA Revolver 32 S&W

Auction Date: May 1, 2016

Rare, Historic, and Deluxe Tiffany & Co. Smith & Wesson .32 Double Action 4th Model Revolver Exhibited by the Factory at the 1893 "World's Columbian Exposition" in Chicago with Factory Letter

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $85,000 - $110,000

Rare, Historic, and Deluxe Tiffany & Co. Smith & Wesson .32 Double Action 4th Model Revolver Exhibited by the Factory at the 1893 "World's Columbian Exposition" in Chicago with Factory Letter

Manufacturer: Smith & Wesson
Model: 32 Double Action
Type: Revolver
Gauge: 32 S&W
Barrel: 3 1/2 inch solid rib
Finish: silver
Grip: solid sterling silver
Item Views: 3965
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 34
Class: Antique

The largest group of firearms known to have been decorated by Tiffany was executed for Smith & Wesson during the 1890s. It is interesting to note that, unlike Tiffany embellished guns done for Colt, all examples done for Smith & Wesson were unduplicated and for the most part done on an individual basis. The revolvers were commissioned by D.B. Wesson who was a strong follower of Tiffany craftsmanship. Tiffany embellished Smith & Wesson firearms are considered to be a departure from the normal procedure of using only in house engraving for their displays. Embellished in the Art Nouveau style of the time, this is an excellent example of a very rare Smith & Wesson .32 Double Action 4th Model revolver with factory letter verifying it as a 100% authentic and an original exhibition piece. The accompanying factory letter states: "this revolver serial number '129517' was shipped from the factory on May 20, 1892 and delivered to Tiffany & Co., New York City, NY. It was shipped in a standard configuration with a 3 1/2" barrel, nickel finish and hard rubber grips." While Tiffany did do some work for Smith & Wesson in the 1870s, no work of this magnitude was executed until the 1890s, and all were intended to be show pieces for the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893, the Exposition Universelle in Paris of 1900 and the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York, in 1901.This fantastic example was manufactured specifically for the 1893 Columbian Exposition. How many of the Chicago Exposition guns survive today is not known. In the "Winchester: The Golden Age of American Gunmaking and the Winchester 1 of 1000" by R.L. Wilson on page 27, a Tiffany Smith & Wesson is pictured as one of those displayed in the Smith & Wesson exhibit in the Department of Liberal Arts at the World's Fair. It is similarly signed "TIFFANY & Co. STERLING." The factory letter that accompanies this revolver further states: "This revolver was billed on invoice 1532. On this invoice were four other known Tiffany decorated revolvers that were on display at the Flagger Museum (Palm Beach Florida) from January 17- April 19, 2006. The exhibit was entitled 'Tiffany at The World's Columbian Exposition.' These revolver were a .44 Double Action, .32 Single Action, .38 Double Action and .38 Safety Hammerless." An advertisement taken out by Smith & Wesson in the Youth's Companion dated May 4, 1893, described the exhibit as "Beauty of Design and Finish." This same ad was interestingly enough Smith & Wesson's only published attempt in the 19th century to promote decorated handguns of any kind (including factory engraved samples). The front sight, cylinder, top strap and barrel features the distinctive Tiffany acid etched geometric and scroll engraving. The balance of the finish on the barrel and the background of the engraved components is the Tiffany lightly textured background. The hammer and trigger are casehardened, and the trigger guard and cylinder latch are niter blue. All other parts are silver plated creating a natural border around the engraving and down the length of the barrel. The solid cast sterling silver Tiffany grip is constructed in one-piece and covers the entire lower frame and recoil shield and is attached to the revolver so masterfully the only visible place where it is secured is at the barrel hinge by original Tiffany silver plated screws. The elongated grips feature a beautiful, yet simple, relief vine pattern coming to a spine on the front and back straps. The butt of the grip is cuffed and features an intricate, wonderfully done, relief scroll pattern culminating in a fleur-de-lis like floral splash on the rear of the grip strap, all against a frosted darkened background. Like most major firearm manufacturers of the time, engravers were not allowed to sign their own work including master engraver, Gustave Young, who is only known to have signed one piece. Amazingly, Tiffany was allowed to mark pieces made on special orders as well as the ones made for private customers. The front of the cuffed band on the lower portion of the grip is marked "TIFFANY & CO. STERLING". In addition, the front of the grip is stamped with a special exhibition cartouche: a globe over a capital "T," which identifies items as Tiffany Columbian Exposition pieces.

Rating Definition:

Excellent plus. The revolver retains 95% of the silver plated finish on the barrel and cylinder and shows some very minor isolated patches of dark spotting. The barrel latch and trigger guard retain 95% of the original niter blue finish, and the hammer and trigger exhibit nearly all of their original deep and vivid case colors. The sterling silver grip displays pleasantly darkened, untouched, and aged patina. This piece represents all the rarity, beauty, and historical significance one could wish for. A one-of-a-kind, possibly once in a life time, opportunity to own a Smith & Wesson Tiffany revolver.

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