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Centuries of Chinese Silver  Part 2 Part 2 of the article Centuries of Chinese Silver, by Susan Dods, the Canadian Magazine Jewellery Business, February, 2007      

What is Popular?

(Continued Below)

08-02-11-2 Centuries of Chinese Silver  Part 2

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Bracelets: The Chinese silver bracelets in all variations have been selling quickly to a broad customer base- one collector buys only the oldest bracelets, another buys because she owns a gift shop that caters to Chinese tourists; another is putting together a collection for the baby daughter she just adopted; the next falls in love with the unusual color and workmanship.

A pair of bracelets was the the traditional groom's betrothal gift for many Chinese women......worn one on each a large number of vintage and antique bracelets appear on the market.... The materials vary from a narrow solid silver or jade, chased with good fortune and fertility symbols to a 2cm to 4cm wide silver cuff with scenic repoussé or enamel set with gemstones. There are also several distinct regional styles....the variety is enormous and the artistic quality of the detail in the silverwork is very exciting.......

In the late 19thc and early 20thc another style of bracelet emerges. Some literature refers to this as "Peking" style. The bracelets are still decorated with traditional Chinese motifs now worked in openwork cloisonné's on a ground of silver mesh wirework.....some are also gold plated and most are set with semiprecious stones.

These bracelets range in size from 15mm to 6cm, and the wider bracelets tend to have more figural enamels. The enamel symbols most commonly seen are the bat=happiness and prosperity; the clouds=good fortune; the Shou symbol = long life and the endless knot= happiness and long life. During this period bracelets also start to appear that are set with earlier stones .....hand carved 19thc jade buttons and pendants often appear in early 20thc bracelets. These are highly desirable to collectors.

Prices on the early silver bangles, which are more valuable as original pairs, will range
from $600 to $800 for a pair.

The larger and less common bracelets rarely appear in pairs....they vary widely in size, age and quality and prices currently start at $600 with great examples over $1000 and rising.

Necklaces; For close to 100 years artisans both east and west have been constructing necklaces that combine Qing dynasty silver ornaments with other one period the Chinese government itself created thousands of these necklaces for the western markets........they are extremely popular and must be evaluated on an individual basis.

Rings and earrings; in silver and unusual gemstones, coral, tourmaline and lapis are the most popular, in lower price ranges have been flying out of the case..... these sales are to a younger customer who is experimenting with a style she has never seen before.......she leaves....shows her friends and invariably returns for customer last year returned with four friends.

Hallmarks; become important in evaluation......pieces of Chinese silver made in the early 19th century are marked with Chinese ideograms.......later in the century makers begin to use a combination of ideograms with the maker's initials in English or Chinese and a quality stamp.

The shop name- usually an ideogram was actually used by a group of silversmiths working under name......Fu Chi, Hsieh Ch'eng and Kwang-yuan are well known examples. However some silversmiths used English letters: Cumshing (CS) and Cutshing (CUT or CU). The most famous shops to use English letters are Wang Hing(WH) from Queens road, Hong Kong and Cum Wo(CW).

Collectors of vintage and antique silver jewelery place a high premium on patina.....heavy polishing will devalue a piece.....a light cloth buffing is adequate.

Many early Chinese silver ornaments have what appears to be a mat enamel in bright blue..... proceed with caution.... it is actually an application of ground peacock feathers....quite fragile...highly prized by collectors.....which will disappear with cleaning!

In early Chinese silver grade will vary from 700-900/1000. In the early 20th century marks change for the western market......SILVER CHINA is the most common mark......pieces with that mark test 900/1000 or simply marked CHINA are usually copper with a silver coating.

Confusion about dating the cloisonné and filigree bracelets arises because after 1970 a large number of similar bracelets were produced for the western market.......the later bracelets use less expensive stones such as rose quartz and serpentine, the gilding is thicker and brighter and the enamels are abstract florals rather than traditional Chinese symbols. These later bracelets are usually marked 925.

This is an emerging market with wide customer appeal. It can be sold to one customer for its history and another for unique craftsmanship. Pieces sold by the kilo in the 1970s are now widely disbursed ......they turn up at antique malls, auctions of Orientalia, and online auction sites.

It is fair to assume that the coming Olympics in China will increase interest in Chinese culture and artifacts and that prices for this jewelry will continue to increase.

Singapore RE 2.5.2