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And when the unusual blue and white vase shown right went at around 25 times the catalogue estimate his reaction was more joy than embarrassment as he cheerfully pointed out that such pieces are not exactly common at the Gloucestershire rooms.

The vase had been consigned to the December 28-29 sale, one of only a handful of auctions held in the UK between Christmas and New Year, as part of a large consignment belonging to a local private couple.

A picture in the catalogue alerted specialist buyers to the piece described as an 18th century Chinese blue and white vase and given an estimate of £600-800.

Plainly more than one such expert had seen it, as bidding went to £16,500 before the vase went to a taciturn private buyer on the phone who later was unwilling to talk about why it was worth so much to him.

Probably a Ming vase, it would have made considerably more money if it had not been drilled and converted into an electric table lamp. Among its attractions was its rare form most commonly associated with the Ming dynasty’s Jiajing period (1522-66): its top section was of familiar globular form but the lower section was square and tapering.

Adding to the vase’s appeal was the attractively free-flowing painting to both upper and lower sections depicting a dragon, a flowering tree and a moth. There was also a six-character reign mark to the base although the auctioneers were unable to confirm the period.

Outside of the pictures, where a de Breanski landscape took £23,500, everything else in the 1577-lot sale was overshadowed by the vase.

Of the furniture entries, an early 19th century 3ft 6in (1.07m) diameter circular centre table went to the trade at £6000 and a pair of 19th century mahogany foldover top demi-lune tea tables with inlaid satinwood banding brought £2500.