Qianlong vases found on a retired couple's shelf sell for $784,000

If you have any ornaments on your mantelpiece, now might be a good time to take a closer look at them. Until recently, this pair of attractive vases (pictured below) adorned the shelf of a UK retired couple's home - who were completely unaware of their true value.

This changed last Thursday (July 29) when the same vases left the sales block at Duke's auctioneers, of Dorset, UK, valued at £500,000 ($784,260). This was after an expert identified them as a pair of Chinese Imperial vases, bearing the seal mark of Qianlong.

According to British newspaper, The Sun, the vases were discovered by Guy Schwinge, an antiques expert at Duke's, while he inspected the couple's home. Schwinge spotted that the vases carry the seal of Qianlong, a Qing Dynasty emperor.

What's more, the vases auctioned with a pre-sale estimate of just £50,000 ($78,426) and eventually sold for £478,000 ($749,753) - almost ten-times the amount. And this isn't the first time that Qing Dynasty artefacts have multiplied their estimates at auction.

The vases carry the seal of Qianlong, a Qing Dynasty emperor

"If you wonder how good the mood really is in China, forget the annual growth rate, the Shanghai Stock Exchange and the rest - instead, look at what's happening in the auction market" - The New York Times

Last September, for instance, Christie's New York sold a number of items from the Arthur M Sackler collection - one of the greatest Chinese art collections in the Western world.

Among the items blessed with the so-called "Sackler magic" was a Qing dynasty jade pendant with a black cicada on a white peapod, whose final hammer value soared to $128,500 - four times its estimate.

That same month, an 1897 Qing Dynasty Three Cents Red Revenue stamp - one of only 50 such stamps to ever be created, of which only 32 can be accounted for today - sold for the highest amount ever paid for a Chinese Stamp.

It far exceeded its $250,000 estimate to bring a World Record-breaking $331,671. Impressive stuff. That is until the record sale was broken again a month later by a stamp from 1968, banned for failing to show Taiwan as part of China. It sold for $475,000.

This Qianlong cloisonné enamel model of a ram and rider sold for
$556,686, last month (you can find out more here)


And the Qianlong effect has continued in 2010...

Last month, a unique Qianlong cloisonné enamel model of a recumbent ram and rider, dated to 1736-95, led Christie's sale of the collection of Walter Lees. It rode to $556,686, well past its $23,000-38,000 estimate.

Unsurprisingly given these price histories, recent research surveying investors in Hong Kong, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) found them to be particularly bullish about investments in the financial markets, particularly collectibles.

For now, it appears that Qianlong artefacts remain a hot tip for investors and collectors alike - and certainly worth a closer look for anyone looking to derive passion, pleasure and profit from the Qing Dynasty.


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