16th-Century Tibetan Carved Iron Box

Value (2009) | $10,000 Auction

GUEST:
I bought it at a country auction about 25 years ago.

APPRAISER:
And where was that?

GUEST:
In Ireland.

APPRAISER:
In Ireland. Well, it's from quite a far distance from Ireland. It's actually Tibetan.

GUEST:
Oh.

APPRAISER:
It's carved iron, and it's carved and pierced with a motif of dragons, foliage and flames. And then on it, on certain places, you can see where there was a trace of gilding. Well, originally that entire box was gilt. It was all covered with gold.

GUEST:
I see.

APPRAISER:
It had been fire gilt. And the box is also quite old. It's 16th century.

GUEST:
Oh, my God.

APPRAISER:
It originally had a leather lining, and it contained probably either a porcelain or a jade bowl that was inside of it. These kind of things were very high status objects because you also figure an object like this wasn't something that you just churned out in an afternoon. It was a major production. And being a major production, it was something that could only be afforded by the wealthiest people, the nobility or Tibetan Buddhist clergy.

GUEST:
Wow.

APPRAISER:
What did you pay for it?

GUEST:
£75.

APPRAISER:
£75. Well, that turned into a good deal. This material comes from a place called Derge in eastern Tibet. And from about the 15th century on they did this kind of work.

GUEST:
So when you say it's carved, was it a forged piece, and then...

APPRAISER:
Forged and then carved with a chisel and a hammer.

GUEST:
My God. And do you think it was used for something else afterwards? Because I always thought it was a cooker of some sort.

APPRAISER:
No, it was probably always used to contain a bowl and would have had leather straps holding it together. Did you have any idea about the value?

GUEST:
No, sir. I just bought it because it intrigued me, and basically it sat on my fireplace for the past 15 years, and actually it was an afterthought bringing it here. And I've always wondered what it was. I thought it might have been Chinese, but Tibetan, that's amazing.

APPRAISER:
The quality of the workmanship is really, really fine, though it's quite worn. But that's kind of to be expected with the age. But I would expect at auction for this box to sell for about $10,000.

GUEST:
Oh, my God. Holy smokes, that's amazing.

APPRAISER:
It's very rare material.

GUEST:
Oh, thank you so much.

APPRAISER:
There's very little of it around.

GUEST:
Thanks very much.

APPRAISER:
In 40 years I've run across two pieces of it.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
James D. Julia Auctioneers
Fairfield, ME
Appraised value (2009)
$10,000 Auction
Event
Atlantic City, NJ (June 06, 2009)
Period
16th Century
Form
Box
Material
Gilded, Iron

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