Late 19th-Century Enamel Decorated Chinese Silver Box

Value (2010) | $3,000 Auction$5,000 Auction

I got the squash from a co-worker and friend whose parents had recently passed. And after the family had taken the items they wanted, she told us we could look and see if there was anything we were interested in, so I purchased... purchased the squash from her.

And how much did you pay for it?

I can't remember exactly. It was around $75. But it was for sure under a hundred dollars.

And how long ago was that?

Approximately two years.

Okay. Now, tell me, what makes you buy a squash?

(laughs) I like to have unique things in my house, so I thought, "Who wouldn't want a silver squash with butterflies and grasshoppers on it?"

We'll start off by looking at the mark on the bottom, which gives us a lot of information right away. The mark simply says the word "silver." Now this is, in fact, Chinese. And back in the latter part of the 19th century, most of the China trade that was in Hong Kong was probably not made so much for export. What's really unusual about it is all this wonderful enamel decoration that's put on it and these wonderful bugs between the lovely butterflies that we have here and this great grasshopper that's sitting on the top. We have these fruits. And the condition is excellent. Just a little ding or a dent at this end of it. It's made as a box, but really, I think, more for decorative appeal than anything else. I don't really think it was manufactured to serve a specific function. Now, Chinese silver has a very different content than what we would call sterling silver. They didn't mine their own silver. Basically what they did is used the coinage from other countries and melted it down. The problem with that is the coinage had all different qualities and purities of silver. The market for Chinese silver is very strong. At auction today, I would not be surprised at all with an estimate between $3,000 and $5,000.

Holy moly. (laughing)

Thank you for saying "Holy moly."

Wow. (laughing) Wow, wow. I never would've... never would have guessed.

Appraisal Details

Skinner, Inc.
Boston, MA
Appraised value (2010)
$3,000 Auction$5,000 Auction
Des Moines, IA (August 07, 2010)
19th Century
Enamel, Silver
November 14, 2011: We contacted appraiser Stuart Slavid for an updated appraisal of this object in today's market.

Current Appraised Value: $8,000 - $12,000 (Increased)

Slavid notes, "With the current strength of the Chinese market, as well as silver's huge rise, at auction today [this new estimate] would be appropriate."

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