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The Chinese market once again stealing the show

16th March 2022

The Chinese market once again stealing the show Image

Although we have already had ten auctions since the start of the year amounting to over 10,000 lots, our March 16th Fine Sale was our first opportunity to stamp our mark on 2022 and the global market. With 789 lots ranging from fine porcelain to arms and militaria, and from works of art to stoic antique oak furniture, we were certain to make waves.

We began the day with the ceramics section where over 90% of the lots offered found new homes and of the four thousand pound plus results three were from items of Royal Worcester china; seeing £1,050 for a pair of vases painted with storks in 1912, £1,550 for a miniature solitaire service painted with fruit, and a whopping £2,200 for a vase and cover painted with swans in flight in 1906. The fourth big price came again from another familiar source, when a large pair of Chinese porcelain alcove vases made £1,750, even with one of the pair missing its lug handle.

The ceramic section was followed by an extremely strong glass section, bolstered by an amazing single owner collection of Georgian and later drinking glasses. Of the fifty one lots only one single glass was left unsold and 11 single glasses made four figure sums. Eight of these coming in at £2,000 or higher with £2,500 for a c.1765 small wine glass, £2,500 for a wonderfully chunky goblet from c.1710, and £2,800 for a 19th century “Newcastle type” glass etched with love birds, cherubs and a wreath beneath the motto "Le Triomphe D' Amour". However the top of the section was seen from a large wine glass, c.1710, with acorn knop and domed folded foot that erupted to more than double the top estimate finding £4,200.

Success carried with a 93% selling rate within the silver section and another ten items selling in the thousands of pounds. Not only were there some sizeable lumps within the section (always good whilst bullion prices continue to hold high), but there was a very good showing of antique and rare pieces within our offerings. My top picks of the section would comprise a stunning quality chinoiserie tea caddy and cover from 1839 with panels embossed with Chinese figures and rococo scroll corners made £1,350 (at only 16oz), a rare pair of tureens and covers adorned with the Royal Coat of Arms by Richard Cooke fetched £2,100, and £2,900 came for an Edwardian silver table suite by George Howson. Another item within the silver section that I cannot ignore was a Georgian campaign three piece cutlery set, it was by no means a “high price”, but just a wonderful thing that out-did expectations on the day. It comprised a silver spoon, steel knife and fork, all beautifully made with tortoiseshell handles and folding to fit neatly within a leather case. We estimated £200 - 300 for the set, but saw £660 on the day.

Now cruising at full speed we entered the gold, watches and jewellery section to be met with similar buoyancy as once again, strong bullion prices underpinned expectations. Another thirteen items reached into four figure sums across the section and watches showed more growth in popularity as an investment. The best of the watches came with an inevitable brand, with a gentleman’s 9ct gold Rolex Oyster Perpetual Superlative Chronometer pipping past the top estimate to gain £2,100. Of the coins the most amusing price came with a 1998 50p, that due to its commemorative nature (celebrating the NHS) and its gold content allowed it to surpass face value somewhat  to reach £820. More gold brought interest with a 1967 cigarette case sporting a quality engine turned design that made £2,600, and an extremely striking ruby encrusted cocktail bracelet that gained mid estimate at £2,400. The best of the rings came with a true classic, a three stone ring with an emerald accompanied by two diamonds amid an 18ct white gold setting that reached to the top of our estimate to see £2,900. But by far the best of the section came from four consecutive lots, brilliant cut diamonds, unused and unmounted, ranging from 1.75cts to 2.30cts. With phone lines fully booked, the internet humming and serious interest within the room we comfortably out did all estimates to sell at £4,200, £6,000, £7,800 and £11,000 for the largest of the stones.

The works of art followed to round off the morning session, always the most eclectic of sections and the one with the guarantee of a surprise! We soon saw £1,050 for a Ferdinand Barbedienne bronze of Apollo (around double the top estimate), £1,100 for a boxed Jacques “Staunton” chess set and £1,250 for an iconic Karl Hagenauer silver plated bronze figure of Josephine Baker dancing. The first “surprise” of the section emerged from a stylish arts & crafts brass table lamp rumoured to be by Arthur Dixon of Birmingham Guild of Handicraft that made 24 times the bottom estimate to reach £3,600. This item had been plucked from one of our weekly household sales, with its style singing to our specialists to give it the top stage and see its true potential. With only three lots of the section and morning to go we still had one last triumph - lot 395, a Chinese cloisonne enamel tripod censer, with striking colours, oversized finial cast with a dragon and outstretched handles that left me struggling to keep up with interest, as competing bidders from China hammered into each other bringing the gavel to rest at a breathtaking £32,000.

The afternoon started with our twice yearly arms & Militaria section. The 120 lot offering of sporting pieces through to items of important military history stood strong with a whopping 98% selling rate. Generally things sold as expected with the following highlights being found across the section: A family of medals from the Second World War “only” comprising the standard four campaign medals, but with a very interesting owner who not only flew a glider, but was involved in the infamous Operation Market Garden allowed the medals to do over double the top estimate to settle at £700. A 16th century Wakizashi by BIZEN KUNI JU YOSHI MITSU holding a beautiful hamon reached £1,000, a Third Reich SS dagger galloped up to £1,400 and a 20bore Jefferey & Son shotgun gained £1,000; even in the face of the impending lead shot ban.

Entering the painting section we had a span of works, from contemporary abstract pieces to traditional oils standing strong in the face of the changing tide of interior design. Another seven four figure sums were reached with the best of the bunch from an extremely bright and jolly Lucy Pratt oil of Cornwall that made £1,300,a moody Herbert Royle of the Wharfe near Burley finished at £1,450, a pair of atmospheric shipping pictures by William Anslow Thornley fetched £1,950 and £2,500 was seen for a fantastically and typically moody Yorkshire landscape from Peter Brook.

To finish the day and an 8 hour stint on the rostrum we had the clocks & furniture section. There were some lovely timepieces, with the top prices being seen for an interesting and good quality cathedral skeleton clock that although “modern” by our standards, did five times the top estimate to gain £1,000, and a late 18th century Tavern clock with painted case by Levy Isaac that reached the mid-estimate at £2.600. Of the top four results in the furniture for the second sale in a row the majority of success was seen within the 20th century designed items - represented no better than by lot 689, a rose shaped chair with chrome legs designed in the 1990s by Masanori Umeda for Edra that reached £1,000 (with a similar Tulip chair by the same designer missing out at £950). We also saw £1,250 for a chair and footstool by Stanley Webb Davies from the 1940s and £3,800 for a limited edition Hovingham Estate adzed table by Robert “Mouseman” Thompson, resplendent with its own box; how much furniture can boast such decadence? Lastly and just to prove that “traditional” furniture still holds a valid place in the market, we gained a strong £2,000 hammer total for a burr walnut drum library table; four times our hoped top estimate.

The sale drew to a close with some remarkable action across the day and a £230,000 bottom estimate left in the dust by a final hammer total for the day of £308,000. We have already started taking in items for our Summer Fine Sale, so do not be afraid to reach out to us for a free pre-sale valuation - you never know what wonderments you may have hidden away!