Dunhill Aquarium Table Lighter

Price on request


Rare (soft pastel colours) table lighter with foshes scene. Electroplated silver mounts, four Perspex (Lucite) panels, each deeply engraved in reverse intaglio technique and hand-painted with soft pastels to create a three-dimensional effect. The front panel depicts a tropical fish among water plants and rocks; the back panel depicts three smaller fishes among water plants and rocks; the side panels depict water plants and rocks. Underside marked “MADE IN ENGLAND”


Alfred Dunhill


H7.9 x L10 x W5.2




Alfred Dunhill Ltd is a British-based company specialising in men’s luxury leather goods, writing instruments, lighters, timepieces, fragrances and clothing. The business was developed in 1923 by Alfred Dunhill after he inherited his father’s saddlery business on London’s Euston Road. Alfred Dunhill, responding to the growing demand for cars, developed a line of luxury automobile accessories called ‘Dunhill’s Motorities’.

This first collection included car horns and lamps, leather overcoats, goggles, picnic sets and timepieces. He gradually changed direction by focusing on making gadgets based on the art of tobacco smoking, recognising that a high quality, practical and yet decorative lighter was essential alongside the other accessories.

In the 1950’s Dunhill introduced a brand of lighters called the Aquarium, funcational as a table lighter. These new lighters were manufactured from Perspex, a material used to carve the interior of the lighter to produce a decorative scene. The carving was filled in with colour to make a number of motifs, the first being the Aquarium. No two Aquarium lighters are the same, they are unique works of art. The vast majority depict aquatic scenes, of either sea-water or fresh-water fish (but never both). A very small number of lighters portray non-aquatic scenes like hunting, horse-racing and aviary subjects in particular. All designed and hand-made by Ben Shillingford (1904-2000), whose unique skills in designing, carving and hand-painting the Perspex panels could never be equalled. Upon his retirement, the skills necessary to continue to manufacture the Aquarium lighter could not be found, and production ceased after only a few short years at the end of the 1950s.

During the early post-war period lucite was eagerly sought and widely used by artists, designers and joailliers thanks to its plasticity. These miniature aquariums were created by using carved and painted lucite panels, these panels would be assembled and applied to the body of a lighter in four sections.

Aquarium Lighters were made in four different sizes, namely the Giant, the Half-Giant, the Standard and the Service, among which Giant & Standard are the most rare; with three kinds of metal finishes: gold-plated, silver-plated, and chromium-plated. As petrol was becoming more popular in common usage, all the lighters were fuelled with petrol instead of butane.

Timothy Oulton has been collecting these exquisite Aquarium Lighters by Dunhill over the last 20 years.