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Is what I am buying really old?

I have been in Singapore for several years. Over a year ago, I was introduced to a "wholesaler" in Chinese antique ceramics and jade, who apparently supplies some dealers here and have been buying pieces of porcelain exclusively from him.

I've tried to learn what I'm buying by acquiring as many English books on Chinese ceramics that I can find but I'm still a novice at this and am not sure that what I am buying is really old.

The first piece is a large vase 19.5 inches high, which has a blue glaze and black underglaze decoration, with a very fierce dragon. There is no mark and I estimate that it is either Yuan or early Ming based on a similar Meiping which I saw in one of my books.

The second is a copper red underglaze plate 16 inches in diameter with a underwater scene and ducks. No mark, but the base is completely unglazed and quite red from what I assume is iron oxide in the clay.

The third piece is a yellow glaze plate, 15 inches in diameter, with underglaze decoration in cobalt blue depicting two birds. It has a mark on the rim indicating that its a "Cheng Hua" piece and the base is a very dark rust color.

Lastly, I have sent pictures of a pair of blue and white stem cups, 3 3/4 inches high with a mythical creature in the clouds and another "Cheng Hua" mark on the rim.

From my readings, all the decorations and marks seem authentic. For example the copper red glaze plate has a white which is "ducks egg" like i.e., bluish and there are the "heaped and piled" effect, even in the copper.

I was a little worried after your description of the Jingdezhen factory, which produces almost perfect reproductions. Thanks for your help.

Recent replicas

I would like to put it like this, if you had not bought these pieces already, I would have advised you not to. The problem is, that they all seems to be recent replicas.

Regarding the blue glazed vase, there is a slight difference of its shape compared to antique ones, the decoration is a bit to stiff and most important - the base have a spiral pattern that definitely should not be there.

Regarding the underglaze red plate, it is the brush strokes of the leaves that thins out a bit different than they should. The picture of the base is not altogether clear but the overall reddish look is wrong. These Yuan / Early Ming pieces were all made of a white porcelain clay that sometimes burnt a bit red in patches in a different way than this one seems to have done.

Regarding the yellow dish, the yellow glaze should cover the entire area of white porcelain and not leave any white areas visibly at all outside the blue decoration. Not even the slightest glimpse of white should be visibly. The base is also covered with a brown dressing that should not be there at all.

I don't know if you are aware of what these pieces - that would have been of best possibly museum quality - would cost if they were/are genuine, but it could easily have run into several hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Since this mail might cause you some worries I must clearly state that this is only my personal opinion and a collector's advise. The pieces do look similar to genuine pieces and there is a huge amount of money at stake should I be right or wrong.

Therefore I seriously recommend you to bring at least one of your Singapore acquisitions to the Ceramic's Departments of any of the worlds leading auction houses for a hands on examination.

This is not an easy answer for me to write and I seriously ask readers to comment on my opinion here. I don't like serious collectors to be in the hands of the whims of "experts", but I don't like antiques dealers who sell fakes either, so please e-mail me your opinion by clicking here.

Thank you for your interest.

Best regards,
Jan-Erik Nilsson