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Archive for Sunday, June 17, 2012

Kovel’s Antiques: Chinese porcelain can be valuable if properly identified

June 17, 2012

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Chinese porcelains of past centuries are selling for very high prices today.

There are many types. Some we identify by the color — like celadon (pale-green glaze) or blue and white (blue decoration on white porcelain, including varieties called Canton or Nanking) or multicolored patterns named for their dominant color, including famille rose, rose medallion, rose mandarin or famille verte (green).

Another American name for some Chinese porcelain is “Chinese export porcelain.” It was the made-to-order dinnerware manufactured in China but decorated in the European manner and sold to foreign countries in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Because the Chinese often copy old pieces, those who have not studied antique Chinese porcelains can’t tell old from the new. Unrecognized bargains have been found in American homes. The properly identified pieces sell for thousands of dollars.

Look for flawless glazes without unintentional bumps or flaws. Turn a vase over. The bottom rim that touches the tabletop is usually unglazed if Chinese. European foot rims and bottoms of lids are glazed. Decorations should be carefully painted in light, pleasing colors.

Twentieth-century Chinese wares sold to other countries are often decorated with large figures without much detail and with gold and other bright colors. A close look at a fine-quality famille rose vase would show a scene with many small people and animals in a woodland or interior setting.

Prices of Chinese porcelain vary with the quality of the work and the age. If you plan to buy an expensive piece, get expert advice. If you own any heirloom porcelains, take a close look at them. Many 18th-century and earlier pieces have been rediscovered in recent years. A decorative piece your grandma or great-grandma bought years ago could be a treasure.

I own a British coronation mug dated June 22, 1911. On the front, there’s a picture of King George V and Queen Mary above the phrase “Urmston Coronation 1911.” Is this of any value? My grandmother brought it to the United States from England.

Your coronation mug is 100 years old, which qualifies it as an “antique.” It’s a souvenir mug made for the coronation celebration held in Urmston, a town outside of Manchester, England. The coronation of King George V (1865-1936) took place in London on June 22, 1911. He had actually risen to the throne the year before upon the death of his father, King Edward VII. Many souvenirs of King George V’s coronation were made. A mug like yours auctioned last year for 10 British pounds, or a little more than $15.

I have a commemorative silk handkerchief of the coronation of King George VI. It was given to my mom by her brother many years ago. It’s off-white with British flags and red polka dots along the sides and a picture of the king in one corner. The words of H.M. King George VI, May 1937” surround his portrait. The edge of the handkerchief is blue. It’s 11 inches square. The movie “The King’s Speech” and the age of my handkerchief have made me curious. Does my hanky have any value beyond sentimental?

Commemorative souvenir items from the coronations, weddings and birthdays of royalty have been made since the 1800s. Great quantities of items have been made in pottery, glass, tin, silver and other materials, most with pictures of the monarchs and the date of the commemorated event. The movie may have stimulated interest in items related to King George VI, but the value of your handkerchief has probably not increased. It is worth about $30.

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