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Few objects truly embody the character of the person who owns them. This, we would argue, is one of them. This silver ashtray belonged to the late entrepreneur, columnist, philanthropist and bon vivant, Sir David Tang.
Tang was the founder of Shanghai Tang, a Hong Kong-based luxury fashion house, which he later sold to Richemont, as well as the founder of the China Club in Hong Kong, Beijing and Singapore. An unabashed socialite, Tang was known to captivate all around him, through his eccentric personality, quick wit and thirst for life. The anecdotes surrounding him are too numerous to list. On one occasion, after being told by doctors he had just a month or two to live, he invited friends to London’s Dorchester Hotel for a farewell party - a typically flamboyant gesture.
A man of innumerable interests, and admired for his taste, he was a regular contributor to the Financial Times’ Agony Uncle, dispensing advice on topics from gardens to modern etiquette. On the topic of men wearing flip-flops, he once wrote, “you really don’t want to expose your toes to people, unless you’re Jesus Christ”.
As the exclusive distributor of Havana cigars in Asia, and the Honorary Consul of Cuba in Hong Kong, Tang’s passion for cigars is well-documented. Rumoured to get through several cigars a day, Tang once stated,
“The taste of a cigar is, for those of us who enjoy it, a subliminal and magical experience which always calms our nerves and stimulates our imagination”.
This silver ashtray features a cast model of a half-burnt cigar, propped on the side of the ashtray, as if rested there halfway through a smoke. A gift from a friend, who it seems, was well aware of his tastes, it features a personal engraving which reads, “David… You are a star – thank you so much. Sarah, January 1994”.
The ashtray was made on order by Theo Fennel, a British jewellery and silverware designer, and liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths. Among other projects, he held an exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts in Burlington Gardens, and even collaborated with Roger Smith OBE on a Series 1 watch.
Wherever it may end, we hope that the playful self-indulgence of this silverashtray, and of its previous owner, will endure.
Theo Fennel for Sir David Tang
silver, inscription, half-burnt cigar
This Sir David Tang Ashtray remains in excellent condition, for an object of its age.