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The 11in (27cm) design combines a rare gilt café-au-lait ground together with panels glazed to imitate turquoise. The upper section, pierced to reveal the convolutions of dragons' bodies, rotates and includes an aperture where perfumes were placed to scent the Imperial hairpiece.

But it was in far from perfect condition - it had suffered a less than clean break to the stem with the chips and losses crudely re-filled.

"We put an estimate of £10,000-20,000 on it, but on the day of the sale we had a lot of Chinese people in the room so we guessed it might go for up to £50,000," said George Archdale, associate partner at Cheffins.

"But the bidding just kept going up and up. The vendor [who was in the room] was bouncing off the walls and went away with a spring in his step."

The sale took place on March 27. The buyer's premium was 19.5%.