This presentation emu-egg inkstand of silver, emu eggshell and malachite, was made by Adolphus Blau in Sydney between 1869 and 1870. Silver-mounted dark green (when fresh) emu egg giftware and trophies were first made in Australia in the 1850s. They were inspired by the ostrich eggs made in Europe since the 1500s. Adolphus Blau, a Hungarian-born Sydney silversmith and jeweller, supplied this presentation inkstand to the Congregational church in Pitt Street, Sydney. It was given to J.G. Marwick, a retiring secretary of the church's School Penny Savings Bank, in 1870.
Before gold was discovered in Australia in 1851, presentation silver and sporting trophies were ordered from England. From about 1856, works crafted by newly arrived, highly-skilled European silversmiths began to dominate the booming market. They were proudly displayed in international exhibitions beginning in Paris in 1855.
Immigrant silversmiths often included Aboriginal figures and 'exotic' motifs of Australian flora and fauna in their designs. They also made racing cups of Australian gold, and silver-mounted emu eggshells as gifts for special occasions. These rare and valuable survivors are fitting reminders of Australia's fabulous wealth in the later 19th century.