Rhino horn libation cup beats estimate by 8% at US auction

A rhinoceros horn libation cup has surpassed its high-end estimate by 8% at a US auction of Chinese carvings and works of art.

The 17th or 18th century item had been expected to sell for up to $250,000, but comfortably surpassed that figure with a $270,000 showing.

One side of the exquisite four inch-high item features scholars climbing the side of a mountain, while the other depicts a family beside a flowering tree.

The sale suggests that there is a strong market for antique Chinese carved rhino horns, indicating that tomorrow's (March 20) auction of a number of similar pieces at Sotheby's could be sensational.

Five 17th and 18th century rhino horn cups that the Antiques Roadshow have estimated to be worth a combined $1.5m will feature at the New York sale.

Rhino horn libation cup
This rhino horn libation cup from China sold for $270,000


Current owner Douglas Huber bought the cups for a combined $5,000 over a 40-year period. Antiques Roadshow expert Lark Mason valued them at $1m-1.5m at a show in Oklahoma last year.

The star of the five is expected to be an "Eight Immortals" specimen estimated at $180,000-250,000.

Since 1976, trading of rhino horns has been illegal. "New" rhino horns are forbidden at auction, but confirmed antiques are an acceptable consignment.

In February a £50,000-estimated Rhino head slated for sale at a UK auctioneer was stolen. This is an increasingly common occurrence, as rhino horns are in much demand in the Far East, due to their perceived healing properties when ground down to form a powder.

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