Chinese Jadeite Maidens, ca. 1900

Value (2012) | $25,000 Auction$40,000 Auction

My mother gave them to me about 30 years ago, and she acquired them, so she told me, in New York Chinatown in the '40s, probably.

Did she buy them at auction? Did she buy them privately?

I have to assume she was at a store.

Okay, how have you kept them in your house?

I hate to admit they have been living in their wooden boxes for 30 years, and I have been hesitant to bring them out because she told me that they were very valuable, and I didn't have a really good place to put them.

Well, I have seen a lot of jadeite maidens in my time. These are bigger than most, they're Chinese. They're made somewhere around 1890 to 1920. The stone jade symbolized purity, clarity of spirit. The peonies that these maidens-- which may be immortals, but may just be beautiful women-- hold represents righteousness, wealth and nobility. And so these virtues of the stone and of the pieces themselves actually attracted westerners. So most of these pieces were actually made for the western market in the late 19th and early 20th century. And often they were used as mounts for lamps. The whole structure would be used as a base for a lamp post that would go behind them and a beautiful lamp shade. So that's where you see them both in the Victorian and the Edwardian period in both Europe and the United States. Now, it's a beautiful material. Jadeite is a very luscious stone. It comes in many, many colors, and this has this tinge of lavender, which is highly prized by Chinese and western collectors. And this touch of apple green right here in the peony, to accent the blossom of the flower, and a little bit in the headdress up here. This stone was mined in Burma and then imported into China in the 18th and 19th century. There are natural inclusions in both pieces. When she bought them in the '40s, they were really in fashion. Jadeite, until recently, was less desirable than white nephrite. However, there's been a resurgence in the market. Now many buyers from the mainland are interested in good quality jade. So what do you think they're worth?

Probably a few thousand dollars.

Even with the inclusions in the stone, these pieces, if they were up at auction, would have a pre-sale estimate of $25,000 to $40,000.

That's amazing.

Appraisal Details

Bonhams, San Francisco
San Francisco, CA
Appraised value (2012)
$25,000 Auction$40,000 Auction
Seattle, WA (August 18, 2012)

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