Rhinoceros horn libation cup charges into Elite's Asian Art and Antiques auction

Elite Decorative Arts is planning another of their exceptional Asian Antiques auctions next month, with some of the strongest being made from the controversial materials ivory and rhinoceros horn.

The most spectacular lot is certainly a pair of elephant ivory tusks - large even by those standards - on stands. One tusk is 81.75 inches in length by 21 inches in girth, and the other is 75 inches in length by 20.75 inches in girth including the bases which add about 15 inches.

Elephant Tusks
The huge uncarved elephant ivory tusks

These are expected to sell for $100,000-$150,000.

For those looking for a more artistic (or just more affordable) version of the raw materials, there is a pair of smaller ivory elephant tusks which have been hand-carved to present a Chinese emperor and an empress in relief.

These 19th century antiques which show fantastic detail, measure 24.75in and carry an estimate of $15,000-$20,000.

Also carved in relief is the rhinoceros horn piece which is a classic libation cup dating to the 18th/19th century which shows people, pagodas, trees, rock formations and even clouds.

An antique Chinese carved rhinoceros horn libation cup expected to fetch $150,000-$250,000, around a dozen stunning Chinese carved coral group figures and an extremely rare Chinese bronze wine container that could top out at $200,000-$300,000 are a few of the items bidders will be vying for at an auction slated for March 17-18.

Rhino Horn Libation Cup
The intricate rhino horn libation cup

The rhino horn libation cup (circa 18th/19th century) has been masterfully relief carved throughout and depicts trees, people, pagodas, clouds and rock formations. At a size more suitable for collectors who do not have vast amounts of space avail, the cup measures 4 inches in height and comes with a fitted teakwood base.

Rhinoceros horn libation cups are enormously coveted, and the $150,000-250,000 is by no means optimistic.

In fact the desirability of rhinoceros horn antiques is so great that criminals are eager to get hold of horn from anywhere they can in order to make fake antiques from it. Just in the past week thieves tried to steal a horn from Norwich Castle Museum in the UK.

A horn can fetch up to £50,000 per kilo on the black market, and of course there are serious legal issues for anything made from rhinoceros horn which is not provably a genuine antique, for this reason.

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