Why Are Chinese Ceramics So Valuable?
You have probably heard of the absolutely outrageous prices that ancient Chinese ceramics sell for. If you haven’t, consider that the Meiyintang ‘Chicken Cup,’ a small, white ceramic cup with a few hand painted images, sold for $36.5 million. This auction was held at Sotheby’s in 2014, setting a world record.
When looking at the cup it really does take an extraordinary amount of effort to imagine that it is worth not just $1 million, but $36 million – that’s a lot of wins at betting sites or a few lotteries right there. Clearly there is value assigned to these Chinese ceramics that is not coming across via visual information alone. Furthermore, given that it is not unheard of that such items are found at flea markets, garden sales, or even tucked away in attics, the antique world can be all but a mad frenzy of hopeful fortune seekers, searching every nook and cranny for hidden treasures.
The question remains though; why are these items worth so much money?
The Importance Of Chinese History
The first factor to keep in mind where antique value is concerned, ceramic or otherwise, is that the value is only assigned based on what buyers are willing to pay. There really is no value beyond this. In other words; if there is someone willing to pay $36 million for a Chicken Cup, then that is exactly what it is worth.
In the case of Chinese ceramics, they are very closely linked to Chinese history. Ceramics have always played an important roll in Chinese culture, with a strong focus on tea drinking cups. Given that drinking tea is such a deeply engrained tradition, it makes sense that the cups used became extremely important. More so that highly skilled and deeply passionate artists began to create them with techniques refined over centuries.
Reclaiming The Past
With the Chinese economy having grown immensely in the last few decades, there is no shortage of collectors that have fortunes at their disposal. Hence, the prices assigned to old, valuable ceramic antiquities has gone through the roof. Hence; it is almost certain that the $36 million paid for the Chicken Cup will be surpassed some time soon.
An unfortunate side effect of this is that forgeries and fakes have become so abundant, as to create a deep culture of scepticism and doubt around Chinese ceramics. Any item brought forward will require numerous tests, and a veritable flock of experts to confirm its authenticity.
Key Value Factors
In terms of the items themselves, value goes up exponentially based on the following key factors; rarity, quality, beauty, condition, and provenance. Of course, if the item is in pristine condition, features beautiful hand painted images, and is one of a kind, it will command incredible prices. More so, the era in which the item originated is also extremely important, with higher prices assigned based on the century of its birth.
Sadly, it comes as no surprise that highly valued items are becoming rarer, as the years draw on. This does not stop hopefuls from combing antique stores, and keeping their eyes open at garden sales.