Great flurries of excitement were experienced recently, when a Chinese antique vase insured for just £800 went under the hammer at a provincial auction house for £53.1 million. So does this mean Imperial-style antique desks in Preston sale rooms will go for a similar amount? Thankfully for British collectors, probably not.
The vase was valued by the auctioneer at around £800,000. Still a lot more than when it was priced as a “convincing copy” on the 1970s TV program Going For a Song, but nowhere near its eventual sale price. The reason for its value was its provenance. The vase carried the Imperial Seal of the Emperor, and was made for the royal palace, which made it of immense value to the cash-rich Chinese bidding for their country’s Imperial heritage. The sale took place during London’s Asian Art Week, when the capital was rife with Chinese collectors.
If you see a set of Victorian dining chairs in a Preston showroom, furnished with symbols of the Stellar Triad, they will certainly be worth purchasing – but it’s unlikely you’ll be gazumped by an Oriental buyer. Chinese furniture was always left unmarked by the craftsman, and the style remained consistent from the 16th to the 20th century, making provenance nigh-on impossible. Most Imperial furniture was destroyed in the Opium Wars, and antique desks and dining chairs postdating the Imperial period are of little interest to Chinese collectors.
The most valuable antique desks and chairs in Preston are those carved from zitan or huanghuali wood, as these were rarely used after the 18th century. However, convincing copies of Imperial furniture made from modern huanghuali wood are now available – so beware. If you have an antique desk or Victorian dining chairs carved with Imperial symbols, your Preston antique dealer will be able to estimate the value for you.
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