Robb Design Portfolio: Rare Forecast

The ability to predict the weather with godlike accuracy began with a single invention: the barometer. In 1643, a student of Galileo discovered that by measuring air pressure one could forecast sun, rain, wind, or thunderbolts, and barometers soon went from meteorological tools to status symbols of the elite, with ornate wood and gold-leaf barometers hanging in castles and the homes of nobility.

"Just as fashions changed, so did barometers," says Nicholas Wells, associate director of the English antiques dealer Mallett (+44.20.7499.7411, www.mallettantiques.com). During the neoclassical period, the instruments reached a pinnacle of opulence evidenced by the two rare Charles X specimens shown here. The circa-1825 barometers, on offer from Mallett, bear many signatures of the era, including verre églomisé (gilded glass). The one incorporating a stylized lyre (left) features a central cartouche with a surmounted thermometer ($25,000); the other device (right) is an unusual diamond design with decorative spandrels ($21,250). The forecast for finding either of them again: Chance at best.

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