2016 : February Notes From An Appraiser

Recently, a gentleman made an office appointment, came half an hour early, brought in five medium size boxes of Chinese metal and ceramic material, and left four hours later. My husband, a dealer of Chinese antiques, participated in the conversation regarding the metal material and gave him a copy of a chart of reign marks used on porcelain from 16th through 20th century. Most of the time, my office appointments are one hour, occasionally two. This time there was much more material and it was purchased for investment, so the learning curve was steep and very important. It took longer than usual explaining what was there and what was not.

This man had sold one business, developed another, and in the meantime, had purchased approximately $10,000 (ten thousand) dollars worth of what he believed were investment quality Chinese art properties primarily from estate sales.

There were several large cloisonné animals: a very tall crane, a smiling crane, a short smiling deer with teeth and antlers and a small, 14” standing still horse with a removable saddle. These animals were in pairs. The cloisonné also included several large vases, and a champlave tall urn.

The difference between champlave and cloisonné was discussed. Champleve is less valuable and an enameling technique in which metal is carved away with a tool by chemical etching, casting, or die stamping and the resulting cells are filled with enamel. Cloisonne is a specific enamel technique where the separate cells for different colors are formed by thin wires. Quality characteristics; the existing wires, the number of colors, the complexity of the cells, were examined and discussed. A characteristic particular to the cloisonné technique, from hammering the wire almost making a ‘groove’ in the wire, then filled with enamels was pointed out by giving the client a look with a magnifying glass and a high power loop.

There were also large porcelain vases. One vase had dragon handles on either side of the neck, with four well-dressed, colorful painted ladies, looking at a scroll and the attendant helping another lady with her clothing. On the bottom of the vase were six characters representing an apocryphal reign mark, on the other side of the vase from the painted ladies were 10 to 14 lines of black ink script. I could not read the script, but believe it to be a poem related to the ladies studying the scroll. The value of the vase was decorative, mid hundreds, and thought the translation would bring 10-15% added value, probably less than the translation would cost.

We discussed which properties I thought would do well at a home consignment store versus auction and why. We discussed the different local auction houses, and what to ask about. Most importantly, none of the material was of the value he hoped. Some was worth less than purchase price. My goal was to help him achieve the highest value for his property. I told him to trust his instinct, he obviously had been successful in business, appeared to be in mid 40’s, and went down a path more complicated than he expected.