Two Jars Bought for $25 at a Thrift Store Turn Out to Be Qing Dynasty Treasures That Could Fetch $63,000 at Auction

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A pair of Qing dynasty jars that were snapped up at a London charity shop for £20 ($25) could fetch up to £50,000 ($63,000) when they go to auction at Roseberys on May 16.

The jars feature rounds of blooming red and yellow chrysanthemums heads interspersed with tendrils of lotus flowers. Measuring 4.5 inches in height, they are known as lotus and chrysanthemum jars and bear the Qianlong seal marks on the base in underglaze blue. Chrysanthemums and orchids were two of the four ‘gentlemen flowers’ commonly painted on porcelain, with chrysanthemums a popular motif given their association with long life and wealth.

The vendor did not know the value of the jars when he bought them, but has a great passion for all things ceramic, as Bill Forrest of Roseberys Auction House told Artnet News: “It highlights the importance of specialist knowledge when it comes to selling Chinese porcelain.”

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A close up of one of the jars. Photo: courtesy Roseberys.

The jars were created in the Chinese Imperial kilns of Jingdezhen, Jiangxi province, during the 18th century and are based on a prototype. Though the original model has been lost, several jars of identical patterning have been found and included at major porcelain exhibitions in China and Japan.

“These jars are extremely well-potted and painted with great skill and finesse,” Forrest said. “Of course, charity shops can be forgiven for overlooking such specialized objects as these due to the volume and variety of donations they receive.”

Qianlong seal on the bases of the jars. Photo courtesy Roseberys.

In a gesture of good will, the vendor has pledged to donate a portion of the sale to the charity from which they originally bought the Qing dynasty jars. “The vendor,” Forrest noted, “is motivated not by the valuation.”

It’s not the first time lotus and chrysanthemum jars with the same design have sold at auction. In 2021, a pair sold at Sotheby’s London for £277,000 ($350,000) and in 2013 another pair sold at Christie’s Hong Kong for in $782,000. The presence of small hairlines on each jar and the absence of lids explains the difference between the estimate at Roseberys and the prices previously achieved for the Qing dynasty jars.

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