Chinese Export Silver Spirals
Until I met Adrien von Ferscht I’d never even heard of Chinese Export Silver, but thanks to his expertise and enthusiasm, I now know that it was collected by Catherine the Great, was commissioned by Tiffany & Co, and that it is potentially the most lucrative of all current categories of antique silver.
Adrien is specialist consultant on Antique Chinese Export Silver to Scottish auction house Lyon & Turnbull, and bought his first piece of this unique silver 12 years ago in a junk shop in Tel Aviv for $40; today the estimated value is around £2000.
A little known but highly significant category of antique silver, Chinese Export Silver was created by master silversmiths in China but produced solely for the Western world from the mid-18th century until the early 20th century. When it appears in UK general silver sales it tends to fetch up to five times the value of comparable English silver pieces.
When Lyon & Turnbull holds the first dedicated antique Chinese Export Silver sale in the UK in Edinburgh on June 26, several important lots will be Scottish-owned. Explains Adrien: “There are at least five magnificent tea sets that would have gone unrecognised as being Chinese and potentially valuable.
“One was found in a Glasgow garage, while another particularly important set was found in Dundee, and another Perthshire. “Were it not for the impending sale, most of these items would have stayed confined to dusty storage boxes.”
Skilfully executed and unmistakably Chinese, Tiffany & Co in New York did not sell silver until it discovered Chinese Export Silver masters in Shanghai in the latter part of the 19th century, after which they commissioned exclusive pieces for their Fifth Avenue showrooms.
Adrien cautions that anyone considering buying Chinese Export Silver should seek expert advice, as prices can vary according to the maker, and there is a lot of unmarked silver out there as well as fakes
“Chinese artifacts, in particular porcelain and Chinese Export Silver are on a steep upward curve and unlikely to drop because of the buoyancy and growth rate of the Chinese economy. No one knows how much silver is out there, but the signs are it’s a significant amount.”
To learn all about Chinese Export Silver, Adrien von Ferscht is giving a talk at the Glasgow Art Club on May 24 at 6.30pm. Admission at door is £10 (including drinks & nibbles). You can reserve a space on http://www.royalglasgowinstitute.org/events.html or call 0141 248 6386.
A late 17th century filigree silver gilt Chinese Export Silver box made for Catherine the Great, currently in the Hermitage Museum