It’s only recently in the decade-long boom in Chinese works of art that Far Eastern buyers have come to appreciate once again the merits of Export silver. Once a neglected area, academic interest has been piqued in the subject as the marketplace moves in leaps and bounds.
This is, of course, one of the largest silver categories and
contains any number of sub-divisions.
Combining near Eastern shapes with Far Eastern decoration,
Straits Chinese silver is essentially the product of two cultural
traditions - made by immigrant Chinese silversmiths in small towns
in Malaya and Singapore. Unlike Export silver, these articles were
typically made for the nonyas; the ethnic Chinese populations of
the British Straits Settlements of Malaya.
Chinese Export silver specialist Adrien von Ferscht, who now
works as a consultant to
Dreweatts & Bloomsbury (24% buyer's premium), identified
this unmarked bowl and cover as a typical Straits production: a 9in
(22cm) octagonal form with a ball finial finely engraved with
scroll foliage and to the side panels with a rat amid fruiting
vine, a bird amid bamboo, a dragon amid clouds and a flowering
plant. It was offered for sale at Donnington Priory on July 9 with
three other Straits pieces - two spherical betel nut boxes and
covers (the finials now lacking) and a similar plain but heavy
The lot had an estimate of £400-600 but did rather better,
selling at £6500.
On July 17
Boningtons (20% buyer's premium) in Loughton, Essex, sold two
pairs of silver vessels by Wang Hing, the firm of export
silversmiths who operated in Canton well into the 20th century.
Although undoubtedly prolific, relatively little is known about the
firm (as with many makers of export silver the name, a portent to
good luck and success, is purely fictitious) but some indication as
to the quality of their output is a 20-year period when Wang Hing
created silver for Tiffany.
Sold at £8800 (estimate £4000-6000) was a pair of bowls with
six-sided lobed bodies decorated in relief with birds perching on
blossoming branches, butterflies and flowers, leafy bamboo canes
and three handles and feet in the shape of sea dragons. They
measured 5½ high by 10½in wide (14 x 26cm).
A pair of similarly decorated comports by the same maker, each
measuring 5½ high by 6in wide (14 x 15cm) upon pedestal sea dragon
bases, sold at £3600 (estimate £1200-1800). These carried
inscriptions to the rim of the base reading Presented to
Even Ormiston Esq. with Wei Wing Lock's best wishes Hong Kong 7th
Chinese silver with enamel decoration has proved something of a
phenomenon in recent times, fetching double or treble the sums one
might expect for pieces with more conventional decoration. A 10in
(25cm) high baluster-form vase c.1900 decorated with an egret amid
water foliage sold for £9700 (estimate £500-800) at
John Nicholson's (20% buyer's premium) of Fernhurst on July
The marks, below, appear to those of the retail silversmith Poh
Sing who worked with a number of craftsmen in Beijing (the
traditional centre of cloisonné enamel work) including an enamel
master by the name of Huang Jiu Ji who probably decorated this
vase. Huang Jiu Ji has attained cult status among Chinese
collectors, with Halls of Shrewsbury selling a three-piece tea set
bearing his mark for £13,000 in 2012.
Above: the marks to the vase that took £9700 at John
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