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Antiques Considered - December 15, 2010

This week a writer wants to know about her cloisonné vase, which has been in her family for over a century.  It is 13 inches high, and the finish is brilliant oxblood, with overall floral decoration.  It is totally unmarked as to country of origin.
Unfortunately, many years ago the vase fell to the floor, resulting in a smash on the lower side, and leaving the enamel badly scarred.   The damage appears in the photograph.  Her particular point of inquiry concerns whether she will damage the vase by having it drilled to make into a table lamp.


This is, or was, a fine example of late nineteenth-century cloisonné metalwork.  Undoubtedly, it is Chinese, and reflects superior design and execution.  To answer the immediate question, the damage has been done, and drilling the bottom to make a lamp will not affect the value negatively.  At present, the greatest aspect of value is sentimental, and perhaps as a lamp the damage would not be as noticeable.  Indeed, in lamp form the break might not be quite so visible.
I do suggest having the piece repaired first, in order to achieve a better appearance. Were the piece in mint condition, I should urge not drilling, as so doing would have an adverse impact on the value.  The lines resulting from the impact will remain, but the surface could be colored and made smooth, lessening the obvious injury.
Our firm sold a vase of similar design, but of larger dimensions, for $600, however it was in perfect condition.  As is, this one is worth under $50.  Cloisonné pieces of all sorts always have been highly popular.  It is an Oriental process whereby a copper item has small brass or copper lines applied to its surface, which delineate the color changes that are applied.    This vase has extremely fine detail in its execution, and oxblood is one of the most desirable of the color motifs.
Proceed with the lamp project; it will serve to enhance its overall value. Happy Antiquing!
Lisa and Henry Hull operate Commonwealth Antiques and Appraisals, Inc. at 5150 Jessie DuPont Hwy. 22570. (P.O. 35). Wicomico Church, VA 22570. Write to them or e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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