The new wealthy elite of mainland China are using their riches to buy back the antique dining chairs , chests and tables of their Imperial ancestors – meaning prices are likely to rise in the future.
A lacquered Oriental antique cabinet gives any Lancashire home a touch of class, but dealers have reported that, whereas the market was once the domain of European and US collectors, it is now dominated by rich Chinese. The People’s Republic of China now has the second largest economy in the world, with more than 1m millionaires.
The demand for top quality Chinese antiques has always been high, especially in the last decade. In December 2011, a Chinese furniture collection realised almost $13m at Bonham’s in San Francisco, where there has been a large Chinese community since the 1850s. The city’s antique dealers – for whom the Oriental furniture market was once their bread-and-butter – are now struggling to find good quality stock in China for resale. One dealer said:
“[Once] we could go over there and get wonderful things for little money and bring them over here and make a profit.
“Now it goes in the opposite direction. We have been pillaging China for a long time and now the Chinese have a say.”
However, there is good news for collectors in the Ribble Valley; antique chests from the Orient can still be found at an affordable price, so long as you avoid late Ming and early Qing pieces, or those made from rare, valuable hardwoods such as huanghuali, zitan and jichimu. If you want an oriental antique desk, ask your Lancashire antique dealer about pieces in nanmu or walnut, made for export.
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