Chinese export Silver is perhaps an unfamiliar area of fine silver for some European and western collectors, but Chinese silversmithing in the western manner has a long history, concurrent with much fine European silversmithing by producing items of great quality and high technical achievement. Here at Chiswick Auctions we have been delighted to offer to the market a number of significant and interesting items of Chinese export silver in our past sales and will feature several items in our upcoming sales.
A previously unrecorded dated mid-19th century Chinese export silver mug comes for sale in our October 11th 2023 Silver and Objects of Vertu sale, which was discovered through an online valuation based on recent successes of Chinese silver sold at Chiswick Auctions.
A rare mid-19th century Chinese export silver mug, Canton dated 1869 by Shan mark of Khecheong
Engraved “Penang Races 1869, the Governors Cup, won by Mr E. C. Thompsons “Bintung”, ridden by H. Hogan Esq.”.
Marked underneath with artisan mark 善 (SHAN) and retailer mark of a gothic K.
This relates to the Penang Turf club established in 1864, the oldest of the three turf clubs in Malaysia, located at Macalister Road from 1869 to 1939. On the 1st April 1867 the Straits Settlements were transferred from the control of the Indian government to that of the secretary of state for the colonies in London (Colonial Office). Between 1867–1871, Major General Archibald Edward Harbord Anson, Lieutenant-Governor of Penang under Governor-General Sir Harry St. George Ord at Singapore.
The date of 1869 is of note as this is the same year as the opening of the Suez Canal, which because of the considerable increase in trade in the years to follow saw the port of Penang grow to become the major entry port for British Malaya.
This horse is almost certainly actually Bintang, who also reported in the Straits Times 27 Nov 1869 for Singapore, where he came in second for the Governors Cup against Iron Duke (first) and Plandit (third). A later race on this Straits times is described as “(…) a two mile race for the Celestial Plate, the gift of the Chinese community (…)”.
The Chinese silver from the Jeremy Taylor collection sold on the 21st June 2023 demonstrates the steep increase in value for the most desirable components of this topic compared to twenty years ago. A trio of mugs, two traversing the cross over from ‘China Trade’ style to the export style, and a large, lidded mug which is now known to have been produced by one of the most prominent workshops of late 19th century Canton. Thanks to retained receipts we can establish the increase in value from purchase at specialist silver dealers in 2002 to a specialist auction focus in 2023.
Lot 161 21 June 2023
A large late 19th century Chinese export silver lidded mug or tankard, Canton circa 1880 by Qiu Ji, retailed by Lee Ching of Canton and later Hong Kong
Marked 求記 (QIU JI)
£13,750 including buyer's premium
(Pre-sale Estimate of £4000-6000)
with S&J Stodel 16/6/2002 £3800
求記 a workshop whose items are of excellent quality, and which are found in conjunction with many different retailers’ marks. This mark is often to be found on items featuring finely pierced and embossed workmanship, as well as trays with deftly executed engraved and flat chased scenes, such as village life or cranes.
Lot 160 21 June 2023
A mid-19th century Chinese export silver mug, Canton circa 1850 mark of Cutshing
£5250 including buyer's premium
Pre-sale Estimate £1200-1600
with Paul Bennett 24/04/2002 £1000
Lot 159 21 June 2023
A mid-19th century Chinese export silver mug, Canton circa 1850 mark of WE, WE, WC, possibly for Punqua Winchong of Hong Kong
£4750 including buyer's premium
Pre-sale Estimate - £1000-1500
with S&J Stodel 6/6/2002 £1250
Other notable ‘artisan’ marks recently sold include:
Lot 188 23 March 2023
A late 19th century Chinese export silver bowl, Shanghai circa 1890 by Kun He retailed by Wang Hing of Canton
Marked 昆和 (KUN HE)
£2500 including buyer's premium
Lot 187 23 March 2023
A late 19th / early 20th century Chinese export silver bowl, Canton circa 1900 by Sui Chang, retailed by Wang Hing
Marked 遂昌 (SUI CHANG)
£1875 including buyer's premium
Both of these workshops were responsible for finely made Chinese export silver. Kun He noted for the well modelled dragons upon bowls and Sui Chang for embossed and pierced decoration, again often of dragons as one this was one of the most popular patterns found on this genre of silver.
Tea ware continues to be a highly sought after aspect of Chinese export silver, with examples demonstrating the wide range of patterns and decorative forms so particular to the two main centres of production, Canton and Shanghai.
Lot 235 22 June 2022
An early 20th century Chinese export silver three-piece tea service on a twin handled tray, Shanghai dated 1926 retailed by Zee Woo
The tray marked 尚 (SHANG), the tea set marked 中(ZHONG)
£4500 including buyer's premium
Lot 417 19 Oct 2022
An early 20th century Chinese export silver three-piece bachelor tea set, Canton circa 1900 retailed by Wang Hing
Teapot marked 寳生 (BAO SHENG), the milk jug marked 卓 (ZHUO)
£2000 including buyer's premium
Lot 412 19 Oct 2022
An early 20th century Chinese export silver three-piece coffee service, Shanghai circa 1930 retailed by Nanking Store
the coffee pot marked 金 (JIN)
£1625 including buyer's premium
For a blog detailing the history, marks and decoration on Chinese export silver please see our blog Chinese Export Silver- Artisans and Retailers, a deep dive into all things Chinese Silver.
Dr Adrien Von Ferscht is the leading scholar in the study of Chinese export silver and its marks, publishing this research in the online third edition of Chinese Export Silver – the definitive collector’s guide (2015).
For further examples of Chinese export silver, but with outdated mark attributions, see:
Forbes, Crosby, H.A., Devereux Kernan, J., & Wilkins, R.S. (1975) Chinese Export Silver 1785 to 1885. Massachusetts: Museum of the American China Trade.
Also: Devereux Kernan, J. (1985) The Chait Collection of Chinese Export Silver. New York: Chait Gallery
We are currently consigning for our next Silver auction, with a particular interest in consigning Chinese silver. In the meantime, if you have questions about an item of Chinese Export Silver (or another item of silver or an object of vertu) John Rogers is available to help and advise.
020 3089 6862