18 Oct 2019

How you can buy your first Chinese Ceramic without falling prey to scammers

Buying your first Chinese ceramic can be intimidating with so many scammers and fakes out there. Here is some tips on how you can get started.

Relics to the past are important to many.

Many cherish them as keepsakes of times past, as inherited family treasures, or in remembrance of beloved relatives.

To the historian, however, antiques shed revealing and valuable light on the lives, ideas, activities, and attitudes of our predecessors. Old things are equally vital to artists, writers, laboratory scientists, medical researchers, and connoisseurs; they are tangible bits of evidence in continuing studies of aesthetics of ancient cultures or in the understanding of earlier technologies and cultures.

Today, there is an additional reason for the appreciation of antiquities: private collectors. Serious collectors are aware that the number of authentic documents of the past is limited, yet the number of collectors is growing rapidly.

Credit: Sotheby's
The rise of the wheeler-dealers

This has resulted in many unscrupulous wheeler-dealers who continually produce spurious, ‘altered’ and ‘replica’ artefacts purporting to be genuine antiques. Therefore, even the informed and seasoned collector needs to be always careful about acquiring new pieces for collection.

If you are looking to collect these antiques as part of your collection, you should know at least a little of the materials, techniques of manufacture and styles of the past. With that knowledge, you can deal intelligently and avoid the false claims of many scammers.

Working knowledge of production techniques or technology of the past will help you not only in the identification of authentic artefacts but in the detection of spurious or altered pieces.

Not all artefacts are well documented, unfortunately. You must, therefore rely on acquired background experience and scholarship in assessing an object as valid. That is not a simple requirement for an individual.

Here’s what you can do to start on your first Chinese Ceramic

A good start would be a visit to the library. There are many reference books on this subject, but this has a crucial limitation. There is a potential colour distortion of publications – which distorts the actual colour of an antique. Also you are unable to feel or touch the object.

Frequent visits to the museum would be a good idea to get a better first eye look on the authenticity of an object, but of course, you won’t be able to touch or feel it.

The saying goes, a pair of trained eye is the most critical skill when collecting antiques. However, a trained eye does not come without doing substantial reading and study into history, as well as getting involved in the actual dealing of artefacts. All this takes time and effort, and inevitable pitfalls and setbacks.

To minimise them, it is strongly recommended for you to attend relevant seminars, and network in the collector’s circle to learn from seasoned collectors or experts.

The Benefits of Owning an Authentic Chinese Ceramic

Collecting antiques can be potentially beneficial spiritually and financially. However, we should be focused on the pleasure of owning a valuable piece of relic with historical significance and the exquisite beauty of the piece of art.

You should adopt the right mentality when collecting antiques. Have a realistic expectation, and don’t be lured by the false hope of huge potential financial gain by acquiring a highly crafted replica purported to be the ‘national treasure’. The likelihood is, they’re not.

If you’re just starting out, start with artefacts of more recent history (Qing and Republic of China period) which have a lower monetary value. Focus on choosing by artistic appeal and cultural value.

As you progress more into distant history, you can also start by collecting fragments of the artefact as it is a more affordable and safer way to learn details such as materials, glaze, style and painting of the artefacts of that period.

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