Auctions  &  Appraisals


Antique News

History of Ceramics

Posted at: 2012-01-26 21:34:52

History of Ceramics

After the invention of pottery in the Neolithic period, (5000-2200 B.C.), the ancient Chinese succeeded in producing painted pottery, black pottery and carved pottery. The long years of experience in kiln firing led China entering into a new ceramic age in the Han dynasty (206 B.C.-220 A.D.) Although archaeological finds have revealed that glazed pottery was produced as early as the Western Zhou dynasty (1100-771 B.C.), yet the production of glazed wares was not common until the Han Dynasty.

An obvious change in the attitude of figure modelling in the Six Dynasties (265-588 A.D.) was the inclination to include more details, an effort to make the models look more real. Six Dynasties potters also succeeded in improving the quality of early celadon wares both in glaze colour and in body clay. The production of glazed proto-porcelain was a significant achievement in Chinese ceramic history.

The major contribution made by Tang dynasty (616-906 A.D.) potters was their bold introduction of the multi-colour wares. In early Tang dynasty, production of sancai , or tri-colour pottery figurines dominate the pottery scene. Tang pottery figurines comprised three mayor categories, namely human figures, animals and fabulous tomb guards.

The success of ceramic production in the Sung dynasty (960-1279 A.D.) was seen in the monochrome wares. The most spectacular of the Sung monochromes was the celadon which has been called by various names base on its shade and tone or its pattern of crackles.

The production of blue and white wares at the end of the Yuan dynasty (1280-1367) and the beginning of the Ming dynasty (1368-1643) was generally of a poorer quality, possibly due to the shortage of imported cobalt during the period of political instability. In Yung Lo reign (1403-1424), both the potting and glazing techniques improved and wares attained a whiter body and richer blue than those of Yuan dynasty ware. The underglaze blue of the Yung Lo wares and Hsuen Te (1426-1435) wares noted or their rich blue tone.

Throughout the Ming dynasty, dragon and phoenix were the most popular decorative motifs on ceramic wares. Other animals, plant forms, and human figures in garden and interior setting were often used as decors for blue and white wares. It has been noted that after Wan Li (1573-1620), very few ceramic wares of the Ming dynasty bear reign marks.

The fashionable wucai wares of Chia Ching (1522-1566) and Wan Li (1573-1620) periods are usually fully covered with colourful patterns. Very often the colours are a bit too heavy. The colours used include red, yellow, light and dark green, brown, aubergine and underglaze blue. In Ming dynasty, a variety of porcelain wares were decorated with motifs coming up on coloured ground instead. They included wares with green glazed pattern on a yellow ground, yellow glazed pattern on a blue ground, green glazed pattern on a red ground and other colour combinations.

Another remarkable category of coloured wares produced in the Ming dynasty was the susancai or \'tri-colour\'. The major three colours are yellow, green and aubergine. Tri-colour wares of the Ming dynasty appeared in the reigns of Hsuen Te, Chia Ching and Wan Li.

The peak of Chinese ceramic production was seen in the reigns of Kang Hsi (1622-1722). Yung Cheng (1723-1735) and Chien Lung (1736-1796) of the Ching dynasty during which improvement was seen in almost all ceramic types, including the blue and white wares, polychrome wares, wucai wares, etc. The improved enamel glazes of early Ching dynasty being fired at a higher temperature also acquired a more brilliant look than those of the Ming dynasty.

The production of doucai wares in the Yung Cheng period reached new height both in quantity and technical perfection.

The use of fencai enamel for decorating porcelain wares was first introduced in Kang Hsi period. The production of fencai enamel wares reached a mature stage in the Yung Cheng era. As the improved fencai enamels had a wider range of colours and each could be applied in a variety of tones, they could be used to depict some of the highly complicated pictorial compositions of flower and plant forms, figures and even insects.

Ching dynasty is a period specially noted for the production of colour glazes. In the area of monochromes, Ching potters succeeded in reproducing most of the famous glaze colours found in ceramic wares on the Sung, Yuan and Ming dynasties. In addition, they created a number of new glazes, especially the monochromes. Among them were the Sang-de-boeuf, the rough-pink, the coral red and the mirror black. All these four glazes were invented in the reign of Kang Hsi.

Yung Cheng potters invented a flambe glaze know as Lujun, or robin\'s egg which was produced in two firings. Another significant colour glaze successfully produced by the Ching potter was \'tea-dust\'. It is an opaque glaze finely speckled with colours in green, yellow and brown.

When Ming was taken over by Qing (about 1639-1700 AD), and when Qing was taken over by the Republic of China (about 1909-1915 AD), the disturbances in these two periods resulted in the collapse of the official kilns. In their places, private kilns were established by the operators and artists who previously worked in the official kilns. With their expertise, they produced high quality porcelain wares, such as the \'export porcelain wares made during the transition of Ming to Qing\', which earned a high praise in overseas markets, and the excellent imitations of Sung, Yuan and Qing wares are made during \"the early stage of the Republic of China,\" which were almost true to the originals.

When the war broke out in 1937, triggered by the incident at Lo-Kou Bridge, all the kilns were closed. The operators and artists were dispersed, and many of them traveled to the south, trying to make a living. When peace came in 1945, social stability led to the re-establishment of the pottery industry. In this stretch of fifty years to the present time, the industry has re-gained its previous glory and is enjoying a growing prosperity. In the past twenty years, the ceramics industry has been developing at a quick pace.

Source: Arttiques®

Value of Antiques

Posted at: 2012-01-26 21:16:19

Value of Antiques

The value of antiques is affected by many different factors. Like any other merchandise the antique china value is subject to the demand and supply situation. Antiques highly sought after but scarce can usually command a better price. 

In individual situations another factor is the value attributed to an antique by its owner, and the price a collector is willing to pay to obtain it for his/her collection. 
Therefore, the actual value of an antique may never be the same at any two points in time, or in two different sales locations.

Ceramics, pottery and porcelain

The following points are decisive factors applying to the value of antiques in general and/or antique china wares.

  • Age
  • Quality
  • Rarity
  • Condition
  • Market demand
  • Manufacturer or kiln*

*   Can be relevant with Chinese ceramics. Mainstream kilns have a higher value.

Other factors:
The type of location or business where antiques are traded also influences the antique china value. High-end or low-end antiques are usually only available in certain locations where their high or low prices are acceptable to their respective customers. Antiques valued in the medium range might be available in both.

Selling venues

  • Auction houses
  • Antique shops
  • Antique fairs
  • Online stores
  • Online auctions
  • Online ad services such as Craigslist
  • Consignment with an antique store
  • Private sale
  • Via newspaper ads
  • Estate sales

Buying venues of low end antiques

  • Thrift stores
  • Flea markets
  • Garage sales, yard sales
  • Online auctions like Ebay, etc.

Buying venues of high end antiques

  • Auctions (on location, online*)
  • Antique shops

* Many of the larger auction houses now allow online bidding in addition to inhouse          bidding.

Item Condition, Rarity and Age:
The value of antique china is also affected by the condition of the respective items of course, the same way as with other antiques. However, age and rarity may lead to exceptional acceptance of minor damage by collectors.
This is especially the case with Chinese porcelain. Minor damage of Ming porcelain, for example, is often more acceptable than if the same condition were found in late Qing dynasty or republican porcelain.
While minor damage also decreases the value of antique Ming items somewhat, in comparison to similar Ming pieces in perfect state, slight damage appears to be more acceptable than with much \'younger\' Qing dynasty and later porcelains.
Due to the scarcity of good Ming items the overall antique china value of slightly damaged Ming items is often perceived as higher than that of equivalent bur more recent porcelain items in perfect state.

Source: Copyright 2009-2011 @

The Chinese Emperors of the Ming and Qing Dynasties

Posted at: 2012-01-26 21:08:39

The Chinese Emperors of the Ming and Qing Dynasties

Marks that contain the name of Chinese dynasties or the reign name of Chinese emperors (called Jiniankuan = year recording mark in Chinese) may hint to the period of production, but are really quite unreliable. At least since the early Qing dynasty frequently reign marks bearing the name of earlier Ming dynasty emperors were used. In republican era porcelain the preceding Chinese dynasties and especially the emperors of the Qing dynasty were also used to increase the value of porcelain items.

An overall judgment of the porcelain piece is necessary to verify if its real age and period mark fit together.

Ming Dynasty

Qing Dynasty

Reign name

Reign name
Hongwu 1368 ~1398

Jianwen 1399 ~1402

Yongle 1403 ~1424

Hongxi 1425 ~1425

Shunzhi 1644 ~1661
Xuande 1426 ~1435

Kangxi 1662 ~1722
Zhengtong 1436 ~1449

Yongzheng 1723 ~1735
Jingtai 1450 ~1457

Qianlong 1736 ~1795
Tianshun 1457 ~1464

Jiaqing 1796 ~1820
Chenghua 1465 ~1487

Daoguang 1821 ~1850
Hongzhi 1488 ~1505

Xianfeng 1851 ~1861
Zhengde 1506 ~1521

Tongzhi 1862 ~1874
Jiajing 1522 ~1566

Guangxu 1875 ~1908
Longjing 1567 ~1572

Xuantong 1909 ~1911
Wanli 1573 ~1620

Taichang 1620 ~1620

Tianqi 1621 ~1627

Chongzhen 1628 ~1644


No guarantee is given for accuracy of content.


Old Brass - or is it?

Posted at: 2012-01-18 19:57:21

by Fred Taylor

   When you read the catalog for an auction that will be presenting some genuine antique furniture, it's always interesting to read the descriptions. Some of the most alluring will describe a piece of furniture as having "original finish" or "original brasses". That's a real selling point when looking at a chest of drawers that may be 200 years old and think that those brass pulls have been there undisturbed for that whole time. Can that be? Sure it can but sometimes that's not the case. And it doesn't have to be a 200 year old antique chest for the hardware to make a difference. It could be a pretty nice Colonial Revival chest or desk or dresser, in excellent condition, that catches your fancy. But is it all original? And does it matter? Whether it matters is a concern for another day. Today the discussion is just on determining the originality of hardware.

  Since changing or altering hardware is one of the quickest and cheapest ways of improving the look of an otherwise bland piece, the pulls are always suspect, especially if they look REALLY good.

  Early 18th century hardware was cast from molten brass using molds made of sand. This type of hardware is easy to recognize because it often has "inclusions" from the sand itself in the brass, either grains of sand or odd colors from impurities. The backs of this type of hardware were often left with the impression of the sand while the faces were polished. Around the middle of the 18th century the customary blend of copper and zinc was changed to include more copper, giving the alloy more of a reddish cast than the pale yellow brass used for hardware earlier in the century. And by 1780 rolled brass sheets were available so that each piece of hardware could be cut or stamped rather than having to be cast. This greatly reduced the cost and increased the availability and uniformity of late 18th century drawer pulls and escutcheons.

   The use of high pressure rollers during the Federal period increased output even more. No longer did decorative pulls have to be engraved or chased individually. The designs were rolled right into the brass itself. An excellent example of this kind of work is the ornate oval backplate of Hepplewhite pulls of the early 1800s with flags, acorns and leaves embossed on them. Another innovation of the Federal period was the reversing of the bail, the handle. In the Queen Anne period the bail was inserted into the round heads of posts implanted in the backplate. The ends of the bail entered the posts from the inside and the bail hung between the two posts. In the Federal era the bails entered the post from the outside so that the bail surrounded the posts. But much of that became moot as time rolled on. The Empire period certainly had decorative hardware but that was the end of it for nearly half a century. The Late Classicism style of the 1830s and 1840s used almost no brass hardware and Rococo Revival and Renaissance Revival used very little. It was only in the Eastlake period in the 1880s that brass hardware became important again.

   So, if the hardware is the right style, looks appropriate for the piece and could very well be as old as the piece, how can you tell? The easiest and least intrusive way is simple observation. Over the years you can bet that not every time that hardware was cleaned some industrious soul removed it from the drawer. The same is true each time the piece got waxed. If the finish was waxed or the brass cleaned while the pull was in place, there will be some residue around the edge of the brass. The build up of wax or the overflow of brass cleaner will be evident. But that clue is only valid in its presence. Its absence could mean the piece was meticulously maintained or that it has just been deeply cleaned or even refinished.

  A quick peek inside the drawer might show the presence of holes that once accommodated the fasteners for hardware other than the current resident. The fasteners themselves can be a clue. The hardware of a 17th century piece would have been held in place by clinched cotter pins on the inside. If there is evidence of that but the current fasteners have threaded posts and nuts, something has been altered. And the threaded posts of an 18th century piece would have been hand cut and the nuts were usually round. If machine made threads and octagonal machine made nuts are visible, something\'s up.

   As a last resort, if possible, remove the existing hardware from the drawer front. Carefully examine the wood and the finish revealed when the brass is gone. Is there a shadow of another size or differently shaped piece of hardware. Is there an imprint in the finish caused by the sharp edge of another piece?

   Your best tool is knowledge of what the correct hardware looked like for each style and period in which you have an interest. I have yet to find a book or source that deals with this narrow subject so as you read related antiques materials you just have to mentally catalog what hardware looks like for a given style of period.