Ironically, the piece was an impulse buy at an antiques shop in Virginia. The shop had closed, but the owner opened up specially for her. It was only to show her gratitude that she decided to buy something 'inexpensive'.
Back home, the woman, became curious about her buy; a general antiques guide described it as 'highly unusual and rare'. Her delicate St Louis upright bouquet basket weight, made in 19th-century France - and similar to models that thousands of homes had in the 1960s - was hotly pursued by collectors who ignored Sotheby's estimate of up to dollars 15,000.
Such is the market for paperweights, that all 113 lots found buyers. Other successes at Sotheby's yesterday were a Ming 'fish jar', which sold for pounds 441,500 to an anonymous Far Eastern telephone bidder.
That same price, pounds 441,500, was also achieved by Christie's for A Lion Attacking a Horse and A Lion Attacking a Bull, a pair of sculptures by Giambologna, the 17th-century Florentine artist, the greatest master of Renaissance sculpture after Michelangelo. Nessus and Deianira, however, a single statue, did not sell: bidding did not get beyond pounds 300,000. All three came from the Earl of Radnor, in Wiltshire.