Chinese White Jade Censer, ca. 1920

Value (2010) | $50,000 Auction$80,000 Auction

I was in college in New York City in 1965, '66, somewhere right in there, and went home for Thanksgiving vacation. My birthday usually falls on Thanksgiving vacation, and a very good friend of mine who was an antiques dealer in Baltimore called me up and said that he had a piece that he'd just gotten from an estate that he thought that I should have. So I went and looked at it and fell in love with it instantly. I asked him what the price was and he told me and I said, "Well, I can't afford that," just on my allowance, you know, in college. And he said, "Well, go home and ask your mother to give it to you for your birthday." So I did. And she said, oh, that was way too much. And I said, "Well, how about birthday and Christmas?" So she gave it to me for my birthday and Christmas combined and I think it was a pretty good investment. She paid $350. I did have it appraised in 1982, and that appraisal was $20,000.

$20,000, that was probably for insurance purposes I guess.

Yes. From my understanding, it is the Qianlong period and it is very fine quality jade.

Well, first, this is a censer, covered vessel. And it has these loose, sort of articulated rings on the handles, which is technically difficult to do. The other type of carving here on the side is all in relief and it's a series of lotus vines. And there's kind of stylized lotus vines. And this has a butterfly forming the handle. And, really interestingly, when we turn it around, we'll see that the lotus decoration, which is all around the side, emanates from several vines that are sprouting from underneath. The other point is that the stone is this nice, even, white color. This is all carved from one piece of stone. If you look at the details of the carving, which are really quite beautiful, you'll notice that there's some little lines on the leaves. What you find on works that were done in the 18th century is you usually don't see that kind of technique. It's a little bit more finished in terms of the quality. And you have some fluidity, but in the 18th century ones, it's really pretty extraordinary. So my sense is that this certainly is in the style of the 18th-century works that you get in the Qianlong period, but it was done in the early part of the 20th century. That's my sense. Now, what's happened in the last few years is that there has been an influx of buyers from China.


That has dramatically changed the market. And what they're looking for are pieces that are of even white color, which this certainly has, but they're also looking for things that are in a traditional kind of style, 18th-century style, and when that falls into place, they're pretty enthusiastic about it. So, I think that the figure that was given in the '80s was, you know, was pretty stiff at the time. And if you wanted to sell this at auction today-- and I would rather err on the side of being a little bit more conservative-- but my sense is that it would be in the $50,000 to $80,000 range at auction, which is a pretty good price.

Well, it's still a very nice birthday present.

Oh, Lord, yes.

Don't you think?

And I have to say, I don't know many people that have put $300 down and ended up with something like this.

Appraisal Details

Lark Mason Associates
New York, NY
Appraised value (2010)
$50,000 Auction$80,000 Auction
San Diego, CA (June 12, 2010)
Asian Arts

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