Meiji Period Cloisonné Charger

Value (2004) | $3,000 Auction$5,000 Auction

My mother and dad got this about 1929. They were 16 years old and dating and didn't have any money to do anything, and so they would go visit an old aunt of my father's. And, um, this was one of the items that she had in her home. And at one point then, the old auntie asked her if she would like to buy it, and so she did at age 16, and it's been in the family ever since.

How much did she pay for it then?

Um, $25. It was a lot of money at that period.

It definitely was.

She made 30 cents an hour, she told me.

And you did have it appraised at one time.

Um... I didn't; my mother did in 1960. She took it to a local art gallery, and they told her it was Chinese, and, um... I think they told her it was about $4,000 at that time.

And they mentioned some date, too.

Yeah, they said it was some dynasty in the late 1700s to the early 1800s.

Actually, they were pretty much wrong on all counts.

Well, that's why I'm here, because I...

For a start, it wasn't Chinese; it was Japanese. It has nothing to do with the last dynasty, which was the Ching Dynasty, it's a Japanese piece. And it was done during the Meiji Period, which was 1868 to 1912, and basically the earlier part of that period. And it's called cloisonné. And cloisonné comes from the word "to enclose," which means all of these wires that are placed here have powdered glass that's been put in. The powdered glass was polished off and then fired to these colors. And then one thing you're seeing in this piece, like in this area right here, all these little spots were covered with gold leaf. All the edges of the birds and the dragons and everything were all gold leaf, and that's just worn off through age and probably cleaning; it rarely survives. But this is a number of areas where you can still see it in detail. But, you know, the decoration is Japanese adaptations of Chinese motifs. Like you have the dragon here and then you have the pearls, the celestial pearls that dragons feed off of.

Oh... okay. I wondered what they were. They looked like marbles to me.

The Japanese call these "tama." It just means "jewel." And in 1960, actually, the value on this piece was about $75.

Really? Oh, that was interesting.

So, they were way off on the value at the time.

I hope it's worth more than $75 now.

Well, actually they were correct, but a little off in the time. It actually now is worth between $3,000 to $5,000. So they were right on the money, you know, but about 40 years off on the time.

Appraisal Details

Tremont Auctions
Newton, MA
Appraised value (2004)
$3,000 Auction$5,000 Auction
St Paul, MN (June 26, 2004)
Asian Arts

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