Thrifting has grown into a big business where resellers can often make a small profit on low-cost but high-quality shirts, dresses, ceramics, and other household items. However, all bargain hunters and collectors hope to strike gold – that unexpected item that turns out to be a rare and valuable treasure. This is precisely what occurred when a pair of ceramic containers were discovered to be Qing dynasty jars worth tens of thousands of dollars.
The Qing dynasty jars were among a collection of ceramics found in a London thrift store. The entire batch was purchased for £20 ($25) by a passionate collector of ceramic objects.They bought the ceramics without knowing their value after seeing them in a thrift store last year. The collector, on the other hand, discovered an inscription – Qianlong – on a label at the base of one of the jars and did some research.
They only realized the significance of the porcelain after that. Qianlong reigned for six decades as the fourth emperor of the Qing dynasty. The collectors brought two jars with bases stamped with the six-character seal to Roseberys auction house in London for inspection. Following confirmation that the jars were indeed Qing dynasty, the items eventually fetched £59,800 ($74,500) at an auction on May 16.
The auction house’s “Chinese, Japanese, & South East Asian Art: Day One” event included the sale.In the 18th century, two imperial Chinese doucai “lotus and chrysanthemum” jars were made. Doucai is an earlier Ming dynasty porcelain painting technique in which designs are outlined in blue before being glazed. The attraction for the Qing dynasty jars was described by Bill Forrest, associate director and head of Chinese, Japanese, and Southeast Asian art at Roseberys.
“I think anyone who is in the presence of imperial Chinese porcelain, regardless of experience, will feel drawn to them on some level,” Forrest said. They definitely have a presence that is difficult to describe. “A really good piece of imperial porcelain is so well manufactured, so well produced with such skill and care, that they kind of exude a presence that is very difficult to explain,” he went on to say.
The 11.5-centimeter (4.5-inch) Qing dynasty jars were described on the auction house’s website as “finely painted in underglaze blue and enameled in iron-red, yellow, and green enamels with roundels of chrysanthemum flower heads, interspersed with leafy lotus meanders.”The design of the current lot is inspired by a Chenghua prototype, as is often the case with doucai-enamelled Imperial porcelain from the 18th century, such as the jar with butterflies and chrysanthemum roundels in the Qing Court Collection.
“There is no prototype for the specific design on these Qing dynasty jars, but the pattern can be found on bowls excavated from Ming imperial kilns. Because they were only commissioned for the Imperial Court, these Chinese imperial porcelain jars are quite rare. “My heart sinks when I read of Chinese objects being sold through charity chops for a pittance,” Forrest added.
He did, however, acknowledge that Chinese porcelain is a very specialized field and that, given the donations that charities receive, charity workers could be forgiven for overlooking it.Previous auctions have sold jars with the same design. In November 2021, a pair with their lids sold at Sotheby’s London for £277,200 (approximately $347,000). While browsing thrift stores and attending garage sales, keep an eye out for old ceramics. You never know what might turn out to be valuable hidden treasures!