17th Century Rhinoceros Horn Cup

Value (2014) | $10,000 Auction$20,000 Auction

This piece was bought by my great-great-uncle around the turn of the century, and it's been handed down from curio cabinet to curio cabinet.

Where did he buy it?

I have no idea. He traveled all over the world. And I had heard that this was a rhinoceros horn cup, and that's really all I know.

It is rhinoceros horn, and it's Chinese. And the way that we can tell that it's Chinese is because of the shape and the carving. The whole cup is a form we call a libation cup, and rhinoceros horn was used because rhinoceros horn was believed to have magical properties that would protect against people becoming poisoned. So if you were a wealthy individual, you would have rhinoceros horn cups not necessarily to drink out of, but just a sort of a magical kind of thing to have around the house that would have this property to protect you. Now, the other things that are interesting about this is the shape because it's not just a cup, it is in fact in the form of an open blossom, a magnolia blossom. And you can look right here and see that the leaves are on the inside. And if you look at the outside, you can see the sprigs from the magnolia tree here.

Oh, yes, uh-huh.

But it's not just magnolia blossoms, it's also plum blossoms.


And those are rising up from these branches, as well. This was actually made in the latter part of the 17th century, and you can find cups of this form not just in rhinoceros horn, but also in jade. And you can find some of these carved also in wood. And they were used in these other materials because they believed that by association, they would have the same sort of protective qualities as the rhinoceros horn. And one judges not only the carving, but the color of the material, and this has a wonderful, rich, dark reddish-brown color, which just shows that it's been handled for a long time. And it's in very good condition. The value of this is going to be around $5,000.


Somewhere in the neighborhood of $4,000 to $6,000.

Whoo, fantastic!

So you've got a real treasure.

Isn't that exciting? Thank you very much.

Appraisal Details

Lark Mason Associates
New York, NY
Value Update (2014)
$10,000 Auction$20,000 Auction
Value Update (2014)
$2,500 Auction$4,000 Auction
Value Update (2013)
$40,000 Auction$60,000 Auction
Appraised value (1999)
$4,000 Auction$6,000 Auction
Baltimore, MD (June 19, 1999)
17th Century

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