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Antiques Considered - February 20, 2013

This pair of cloisonné vases has descended through the family of a lady in Lancaster County.  They are in perfect condition, and are unmarked as to country of origin.  The bases appear to be brass that has been silver-plated.   The plating has worn off in spots.  They are six inches tall, and the present owner does not know how long they have been in

the family.

 

Cloisonné remains among the most popular of oriental decorative arts.  These vases are fine examples of late nineteenth-century cloisonné.   They date from the last quarter of the nineteenth century, as indicated by the absence of a mark indicating Japan or China.  These have the characteristics of being Chinese, but without the mark of the country, certitude in attribution is difficult.

The process for making cloisonné originated in The Orient.  The base metal is brass, upon which the artisan lad out a pattern of thin wire strands, which defined the areas for the application of enamel.  It was both tedious and time-consuming, and remains so today, although modern cloisonné is machine-made.  As a general rule, the more vivid the colors, the more valuable the pieces.

China and Japan found ready markets for cloisonné in America and Europe, and the wares, which included bowls, cigarette boxes, trays, vases, and lamps virtually flooded those markets.  After 1891 international trade agreements required the pieces to bear the designation of the country of origin for exported products, thus we can be almost certain that these vases are pre-1891.

The black background highlights the brilliance of the floral decoration.  This pair is worth $250.  I caution against washing or aggressively dusting, as the delicate wire banding can be pulled loose, and once done, is almost impossible to repair.

Good cloisonné makes for a sound investment in these uncertain economic times, and it is an investment that one can enjoy every day.

Happy Antiquing!

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