Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Broken Antique Pieces

When someone broke a vase, what would he do with the broken pieces of porcelain on the floor? Obviously, he would be angry with himself. Then he would clean up and throw the broken pieces of porcelain into the bin. Everybody would then say he did the right thing as there was nothing he could salvage from those broken pieces.

But today if anyone break a vase, I will advise him. Don't throw away the broken pieces as there is a market for them, especially so if these pieces are from antique vases, the older and the rarer the antique broken pieces, the more valuable they are.

But why do people collect broken pieces of antiques?

The reason is obvious. The genuine antiques are so valuable that they are beyond the average collectors' budget. Usually these antiques are sold in auctions where the prices can only go up and up and only the one with the highest bid can take home such antiques.

For instance, in a recent auction (2014) in Hong Kong, a rare Chenghua chicken cup was sold for a record price of 280 million RMB. A few years earlier a blue and white vase from the Yuan dynasty was auction for a phenomenal price of 230 million RMB. It was quoted as saying that the money could exchange for 8 tons of gold at the prevailing price of gold at that instance. As collectors' appetite grow for such valuable things, they sought to look for a cheaper alternative, the broken pieces of antique vases. Some buy these broken pieces as they want to learn to recognize feature/characteristics of antiques through studying these pieces. Some buy them as they want to turn these broken pieces into small little jewelry items. Yet some buy them with a view to make money if they have spotted some genuine good pieces.

Chenghua chicken cup

Yuan dynasty's blue n white vase

Market where broken antique pieces are being traded
In the beginning, broken antique pieces were traded at a very affordable prices. Some were selling at tens and hundreds of RMB. As more and more people are joining the hunt for these broken pieces, prices of these antique pieces escalate. It has become a common thing for the average income group to go on a treasure hunt to supplement their income.

A broken piece from Yuan dynasty depicting a full dragon 
Many years ago, a collector spotted this broken piece of porcelain (above picture) from a fisherman in Hainan. He liked it so much that he wanted to buy it. However the owner refused to sell him. After many rounds of negotiations, they finally settled at a price of 5000 RMB (a ridiculous price at that time). Just when he was to pay the fisherman, the fisherman raised the price to 5500 RMB.  The collector had no choice but to pay him the money as he really like this broken piece. He did not even know what he was buying and if it was really worth the money he had paid. He just liked the dragon which was very well painted on the porcelain, full of life and vitality.

A businessman later offer this collector 1 million RMB if he would like to sell the broken piece to him. This collector did not take up the offer as he had a passion for such beautiful pieces. This broken piece of porcelain was later confirmed to be from the Yuan dynasty. Could you imagine how much it is worth? The collector later quited his high-pay job and spend his time to study the blue-n-white porcelain pieces form the Yuan dynasty. He has since collected quite a good number of pieces from the Yuan dynasty.

Details of the dragon
There is another collector who also has a passion for broken antique pieces. He has one such piece from the Song dynasty. This piece was from the 5 famous kilns of the Song era, namely, Lu, Kuan, Ge, Juin and Din. That piece was from the Lu kiln where the antiques were considered priceless even during the later Song era (Southern Song dynasty). What was even more astonishing is that this piece exhibits some dragon marks (scale-like motifs) on the glaze. This was something unheard of even among scholars who are experts of the Song dynasty antiques of that era. This type of graze made the piece very valuable. One businessman offered the collector 300000 RMB but he would not even sell it for 3 million RMB. It was the only piece to have such feature in all the existing Song Lu ware.

A rare piece of Lu ware
Other broken pieces of blue and white porcelains are equally attractive. No wonder so many collectors spend a lot of time and effort in collecting them.

Apart from their artistic and antique value, some broken porcelain pieces contain invaluable information on the history of porcelain, the use of glaze and the type of ware, its design and origin. This information is vital to people who seek to do research on porcelain. For instance, some broken pieces contain a lot of writings,  yet unknown to the average collectors as to the meaning of such writings.

Scholars and researchers gather together to study these writings. These pieces were aslo exhibited regularly and feedbacks were sought from the public. As a result, the experts have a better understanding of the history and development of porcelain through the early years.

Broken pieces with writings
It is interesting to know that broken porcelain pieces have so many things to offer the collectors, their value, history, culture and art. The next time if you are so  unlucky that you break your vase accidentally, don't be angry and throw away the broken pieces. They can be sent for restoration or they can be made into interesting art and craft decorations or jewelry items.

Don't forget there is a market for broken antique pieces. Just keep your broken pieces and sought experts' advice. You may be able to salvage something from them.

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