Chinese Lamp

By the mid 14th century, during the Ming dynasty, Jingdezhen had Imperial patronage and was the most important centre in China for the production of porcelain. In fact, the only place in the world that could produce porcelain! The “secret” of blue and white is cobalt, a natural mineral ore, which was then confined to Persia, today’s modern Iran. Persia, or rather, Kashan, located near Tehran, held a monopoly on the valuable cobalt which was mined in the low hills surrounding Kashan.

The Persians used cobalt for the decoration of white, tin glazed earthenware and, in fact, Kashan was an important centre for the manufacture and distribution of ceramics throughout the Middle East. Here, we are speaking of a 9th and 10th century world, totally unrecognizable to us today with our instant everything and with every part of the world, just hours away! At this time trade between countries was slow, dangerous and arduous, a trading caravan, typically taking a year for the round trip.

Trading caravans from Persia first introduced the Chinese to Persian cobalt; soon to be know in China as “Persian Blue”, the cobalt ore ground to a fine dark blue to black powder. Chinese potters were excited and thrilled with this new product and trading began in earnest with bolts of pure silk exchanged for small packets of Persian Blue.

It was at this period that ceramic decorators were experimenting, especially with the firing techniques, as the cobalt could be unstable with the effect of over or under firing which is one of the reasons that this very early class of Chinese blue and white painting is sketchy with the blue being washy and rather pale.

Chinese porcelain is “hard paste” porcelain, the term really refers to the “hard fire” or, high temperature, requiring kilns capable of raising temperatures up to 1250° C / 2300° F in order for the porcelain to vitrify with the hard, white, translucent result we call porcelain. Because of the high level kiln failure, expense and labour required, porcelain at this time was so rare that it was only produced for important commissions from the Imperial court or high ranking members of the aristocracy.

Amazing Chinese antiques

The  Chinese new year has passed and the weather is warming! The peasants sellers from the countryside are gradually returning and bringing with them, the years new shipments of Chinese classical and provincial antiques collected from their home towns and villages.  Some interesting things!

As always though, the field narrows and there are general trends to be aware of this year:
  • Each year it gets harder and harder to find good pieces. If you didn’t buy what you wanted last year, its probably gone this year.
  • Prices are rising as supply diminishes and mainland Chinese begin to purchase and appreciate their own culture as well.
  • Its difficult to find original paintings anymore. Most have been repainted or retouched.
  • As always, the older, more original, rarer or better quality wood, the more expensive it is!
Here are some of the items for sale which catch my eye in the antique markets at the particular moment. 

A chinese Antique Painting

After last weeks visit to the Beijing un-restored  antiques market, several people had asked me for specific recommendations on “which pieces I would buy and why would I buy them.”
I will break this list down into three categories and discuss each in a three part post.
  1. Collectors level: These are often investment worthy classical style pieces which are good materials (such as rosewood), valued in collectors  terms and will appreciate in value. Collectors and those with taste for quality should put their money here. This is a tricky category as Westerners and Chinese value things in different terms (see note below).
  2. Quality antiques: In general these are pieces that may be provincial but good value for the money.  Either the condition is quite good (such as original paintings), it has a fair amount of age to it or its difficult to now find a similar piece at a reasonable price.  Note that these pieces are getting harder and harder to find and will increase in value as well. And this is a difficult category as some pieces here may be a worthwhile investment, even if they don’t fit the strict definition for investment level.
  3. Decorative items: Pieces which may not be significantly worth money but nevertheless charming and have good aesthetic or design value.
Of course its impossible to discuss each piece in detail here and these are just a few of the  items which stand out. Nor will you will not find any Huang hua li or Zitan here – those sort of items will never reach these markets and are rare enough inside China as it is.  However for those with the means and those who appreciate these are items I would put my money into.

Chinese Shovel

I recently stumbled across a Chinese antiques themed scraper site, aggregating headlines related obviously to Chinese art and antiques. For those of you who are not savvy in the lingo of the web, “scraper sites” are basically spam sites which glean all of their content off of the web and repost it in its entirety (as their own content). Usually sites like that are put up for the purpose of selling ads on the site – in many ways they ruin the web when it comes to search engine by polluting results with content that doesn’t even belong on their site . I won’t post the link here as I frown on the practice, having found my own content scraped a few times already. But I must admit, in this case it did lead me to so interesting recent articles which are worth sharing. Unlike them, I had to spend some time finding the original source of the article in order to provide credit where it is due.

Antique Dish

Burma (Myanmar), Southeast Asia
Dish, 14th-15th century
Decorative object; Ceramic, Stoneware with celadon glaze, 3 x 13 3/8 in. (7.62 x 33.97 cm)
Mr. Robert P. Griffing, Jr. Bequest (M.80.32.3)
South and Southeast Asian Art Department.
Note: not currently on public view.

Antique Art

Just another pieces of Parabaik kept in Southeast Asia Digital Library of Northern Illinois University.

Subject - Parabaik
Materials - Paper
Place of Origin - Burma
Current Location - Northern Illinois University Libraries, Special Collections
Date - 1850
Measurements - 17 x 46 cm
Technique - Manuscript

Description ( as NIU original short note )
Painted illustrations of Jataka and Ramayana figures, some captioned and allocated to days of the week, astrological calculations. Black script on one side and colored illustrations on the other side of continuous sheet of white paper folded fanwise (13 folds). Outside folds black with red ink. Ms. Donor: Burma Studies Group.

Burma Antique Designs

Album of 48 drawings, 1853-1885. Mandalay, Burma. Museum no. IS.136-2009. A robed Brahmin priest (Poona) of the court holding a conch shell and fan.
Height 37.2 cm x width 23.5 cm.
Acquired with support from The Art Fund and The Friends of the V&A
Album of 48 drawings, 1853-1885. Mandalay, Burma. Museum no. IS.136-2009. Wife of a King's Merchant. In front of her are arranged objects appropriate to her rank: a betel nut stand (containing four small vessels) and three other containers. Height 37.2 cm x width 23.5 cm.
Acquired with support from The Art Fund and The Friends of the V&A
Album of 48 drawings, 1853-1885. Mandalay, Burma. Museum no. IS.136-2009. Princely figure on throne (Chobwa) accompanied by his insignia of rank: umbrella, sword on stand, large container for betel nut and other vessels. Height 37.2 cm x width 23.5 cm.
Acquired with support from The Art Fund and The Friends of the V&A

This rare album of 48 paintings depicts a range of officials and their wives from the last Burmese court at Mandalay (1853-1885). Included are grades of court officials, high ranking army officers, princes and other significant court figures of the time, including Brahmin priests, together with representatives of regional ethnic groups such as Shans. Costumes are carefully and sensitively depicted and each figure is also accompanied by his or her insignia of rank such as swords, musical instruments and betel nut containers. It is likely that the album was created on the orders of a European visitor using local court artists, and an inscription on the fly leaf reads '48 drawings each cost 5 Rs '.
The album not only provides a rare and revealing window onto a now vanished royal court but significantly illustrates and enhances the V&A's existing unique collection of 19th century Burmese court costume and regalia. Several illustrations relate directly to the dress pieces and other insignia in the collection.
The album was collected by Robert Hoe during his lifetime (1839-1909) and bears his bookplate. This American businessman was an art collector and first president of the Grolier Club, a New York society devoted to the promotion of bookmaking as an art. It was later acquired by Doris Duke the renowned collector of South East Asian art who collected Thai and Burmese objects during the 1960s.

Antique Rings

There are as a lot of excellent motives to contemplate buying an antique engagement ring as there are causes for deciding when to pop the question. Whilst modern day day jewelers struggle to supply clients something distinctive and contemporary, the bride-to-be might be much more inclined to appreciate the style and inherent charm of an antique. Another perfectly acceptable cause for acquiring antique engagement rings is they often provide purchasers a far better top quality diamond at a reduce price tag than purchasing a new ring.
Prior to beginning your search for the excellent wedding ring, it is greatest to ask your self a few queries.
Do you know about the 4 C’s?
The 4 C’s are the criteria professionals use to decide the worth of a diamond.
“Clarity requires into account the number, character, and visibility of flaws inside the stone. These are frequently referred to as inclusions. The fewer inclusions, the better the good quality of the stone.”
Carat is the size or weight of the diamond. The larger the stone, the larger the price. An benefit to buying antique engagement rings is that in the 1930s and 1940s jewelers usually compensated for a smaller sized diamond by setting it in an intricately made white gold, square-shaped box. These produced the stone appear bigger.
“Color is a matter of taste. Contemporary-day requirements put a higher value on a clear diamonds, as a rule. In the past, purchasers wanted their diamonds to reflect a rainbow of colors, soft pinks, yellow, or green tints. Even though colored diamonds are still available these days, they had been deemed more valuable in the previous. It is also important to note that numerous of the contemporary colored diamonds are artificially altered to enhance the color.”
Reduce is also a matter of taste and another reason antique engagement rings may be the best answer. More than the years, the preference of reduce has changed. Moreover, a laser now cuts most diamonds whereas older stones were typically reduce by hand, giving them a far more customized, romantic look.
What is the difference amongst an antique ring and an estate ring?
Antique rings usually refer to rings that are more than 50 years old. Rings much less than 50 years old and purchased utilised are thought of as estate rings.
What are the designs of diverse eras?
Victorian Era (1835-1900) – Victorian era antique engagement rings featured diamonds or pearls set in yellow or rose gold. The ring types varied from easy elegance to intricate detail. Many settings featured rows of diamonds that had been cut with an added facet in the bottom of the stone. This was recognized as a mine cut.
Edwardian Era (1900-1920) – With the invention of the oxyacetylene torch, platinum became the preferred metal for the period. The wedding bands were usually crafted with lacy and pierced shapes, milgraining, filigree detail, and scrollwork. Rose-cut diamonds and sapphires were the preferred stones.
Art Deco Era (1920-1930) – Art Deco antique engagement rings feature a streamlined geometric appear. They also reflect Egyptian, Asian, and Native American cultures. These rings had been frequently created of platinum featured colorful, contrasting gemstones as well as diamonds.
Exactly where can antique engagement rings be purchased?
Antique engagement rings can be purchased in a number of places: antique shops, estate sales, pawn shops, auctions, and there choose vendors on-line and bigger cities who specialize in the acquire and resale of antique jewelry. No matter where you buy your engagement rings, keep in mind to get a complete description of your purchase in writing and appear to vendors who provide a written returns policy. You could also ask if the jewelry comes with a certified gemologists report, which provides optimal proof that the jewelry is as described.
When buying an engagement ring, it is crucial to contemplate all your alternatives, including antique engagement rings.

Thanksgiving Special

We have so much going on this week at Potomac West! We are very excited to introduce you
to our new dealer, #394. His space is located downstairs at Potomac West and he sells a
fabulous selection of mid-century modern furnishings and accessories. If you love the chic,
clean lines of the "Mad Men" era, you will LOVE his pieces. From mod mirrors to cool leather chairs this dealer stocks it all. Check out a photo of his space below!

We are also excited to announce that our dealer Eight Hands Round has moved their space from our sister store Not Too Shabby over to Potomac West. Their new space is located on the first level at Potomac West. They have loaded their space with new merchandise and you will love searching through their shabby chic style furnishings. Click here for photos of their offerings!

We had a blast this week putting together the perfect elegant, formal Thanksgiving table. Check out the photo below and click here for more photos and tips on how to get the same look for your table! Potomac West has everything you need to make your Thanksgiving unforgettable.

Columbus Day Picks!

We are open Columbus Day 10/10 from 10am-6pm! Stop in and check out our fabulous fall inventory.

Pictured above is a gorgeous Danish style cabinet with wood inlays, perfect for extra storage in any room. This piece is available in our dealer Primrose's space. You can find her upstairs at Potomac West.

We also have a great selection of vintage and new Fiestaware. There are some great opportunities to save right now,  He has wonderful pieces and an absolutely fabulous selection of vintage hats.

Celebrate Columbus day with Potomac West! Become a fan on Facebook and get daily updates about new merchandise and special savings!

Keep your eyes on our website this week for a special feature about our dealer Full Circle who is currently featuring her fabulous costume jewelry the front window.

Best of Day

Her style oozes with a casual elegance - you will always find clean lines matched with bold colors, beautiful patterns and warm textures in her space. She always incorporates a shabby chic, rustic or primitive piece to give her style a comfortable, easy feeling. We love her pieces because they look like they were taken from the pages of our favorite home and garden magazines. 

Featured above is an antique corbel. It is made of wood and is beautifully hand carved. This piece would be simply fantastic on a mantel, hanging on a wall or in a doorframe. The wood tray & stand is made of maple and is perfectly aged - a fantastic size for serving or storage. 

Also featured above is a hand painted floor lamp with a brand new shade.

Delightful Antique

Brrrrr! The winter weather has finally made an arrival and it is icy, wet and chilly! Warm yourself up with some antiquing! We have some great finds in the shop this week including this gorgeous dresser - plenty of storage and space saving height.

Happy Shopping!

Meet our friend

Check out our staff pick of the week! This stunning armoire can be assembled and disassembled in a flash because it comes in several pieces, making moving this beautiful piece a breeze. It features tons of storage and beautiful woodworking. While it is a large piece, it adds drama to any room and is sure to keep you happy for a lifetime!

Perfect Antiques

One of our dealers, Ginger Rodriguez, is our guest blogger this week. She tells us about using reproductions v. the real thing and how to spot the difference. Enjoy!

I'm totally fine with reproduction furniture and I purchase them all the time for my spaces... but actual antiques are a whole different thing. Sometimes there's no substitute for an item that has a history...not to mention the level of hand-craftsmanship which often is just awe-inspiring.
And of course, there's the price! When you pay for an authentic antique, it had darn-well better BE an authentic antique!
But how do you really know?
Here are some great tips to help you in you determine the Fab from the Fake.

Perfectly Imperfect: As we grow and live through our life story, along with the good things, also come a few scars... and it's the same with antiques. I think a person, or an item - without any mars or irregularities... just lacks character! (who knew antiquing would get so philosophical!) Look for wear, flaws, and color variations. Reproductions often have them too, but they are contrived and painted on... close examination will expose the bluff.

Not too Matchy-Matchy: In the past, things were done more frugally. The most desirable wood species were treasured and usually carpenters did not use them where it didn't matter. Examine the piece carefully and see if the parts that show - are a different wood from the parts that do not show.

Feeling Stuffed: Foam rubber, nylon batting and other synthetic materials were introduced only around the 1920's and can be a dead giveaway. Truly old items will be stuffed with horsehair, hay, cotton, wool or other interesting natural fibers.

Nobody's Perfect: and this includes wood workers. If the decorative carving is too perfect, then it was probably done by machines and not the old fashioned way, by hand.

Join In: With a few minutes of study, you can become knowledgeable on the basics of ... Joinery! That is how wooden items are put together. Where you see Dovetails, doweling, mortise and tenon techniques and other detailed methods... that's a good indication of age. Also remember, Phillips head screws and the presence of fiberboard say "modern" !
Today, manufacturers often rely a lot on gluing. Antiques will usually have finely-crafted parts where the strength comes mostly from craftsmanship creating a joint so tight that glue was used less, or not at all.

The Smell can Tell: If I blind-folded you and put you in an old book store, you could tell it... a little musty, a little dusty, but in a good way. Same with antiques. If you can get you nose into a drawer or close to upholstery, you will often be able to determine real from repro. The scent of varnish, paint or polyurethane probably means new.
You are now well-armed with my Fab or Fake Facts......and are hereby advised to

Baseball antique?

Possessing a vintage baseball card or sports collection doesn’t entitle somebody to significant amounts of money. Listed below are 10 top reasons why your baseball cards and/or sports memorabilia collection might not be worth top dollar.
  1. The baseball cards you have are all of “common” players and not the Stars (Mantle, DiMaggio, etc.) The “stars” and “Hall of Fame members” command a much higher price tag.

  2. Your baseball cards look like they have sharp corners, but upon measuring each card, it becomes clear that the cards were trimmed (A process used to make trading cards have sharp corners). This is tampering. Buyers don’t like to purchase restored/trimmed cards. They want to buy cards that have the same dimensions as when they left the factory a number of years ago.

  3. Personalized autographs command less value than non-personalized autographs. A personalized autograph is less valuable when it comes time to resell the item. A baseball signed by Mickey Mantle personalized to “Bart Smithers” might carry a very high sentimental value to you because you met Mr. Mantle and he signed it for you. To meet an athlete in person, let alone a guy in the Hall of Fame like Mickey Mantle is an experience you will never forget. This is a memory that you will share with your friends and grandchildren forever. I have had the opportunity to meet a lot of professional athletes and each one has a different story. However, unless you can find another Bart Smithers who wants to buy this ball, you might find it hard to resell it. Mr. John Smith doesn’t want to have a Bart Smithers signed baseball. If Mr. Mantle would have just signed his name on the sweet spot, your baseball would command a higher resale value. Nobody wants to display an autographed baseball on their bookshelf or fireplace that doesn’t have their name on it. When Mr. John Smith decides to resell the baseball at a later date, he will have the same problem as you had. People deduct value because of the personalization.

Skills for hunting Antiques

If you've got the antique furniture bug, beware because there is no known antidote, vaccine or cure that can help you. Oh, a few duds and a couple of rip offs will cool your ardor temporarily but the best you can hope for is good hunting without too many mishaps to clutter up your space and wreck your finances.
      So what do you need besides a willing, or at least understanding or at the very least tolerant, significant other and some ready cash? Several important points come to mind to help you dispose of that cash in a meaningful manner.
      EXPOSURE - You can't find the stuff if you are not out there where it is. It generally is not going to walk into your parlor and wag its tail. You have to go out there and find it. And that's not as easy as it sounds. So where do you go?
      The first obvious answer is antiques shops and malls. Peruse your local trade papers to see who advertises in your area and visit them. The dealers who own these shops have already spent a lot of time and money searching out inventory to sell so take advantage of their expenditures. Their tastes may not coincide exactly with yours but its a good place to start. Besides their hard goods inventory, most good shops have another valuable asset that can serve you well. Unlike most of the nice folks who work at the fast food joint on the corner, the owners of good antiques shops actually have an interest in the business and want to be there. They usually are quite knowledgeable and are eager to demonstrate their expertise, given an opportunity. There is no better place to establish a toehold in the antiques world than in a well run shop.
      The next place to explore is the world of shows. Instead of going to one antiques shop, a well promoted show will give you the opportunity to interact with a dozen or a hundred or even  a thousand dealers from different locales, almost all of whom know some fact or tidbit about the trade that you don't know. So what if you have to pay a couple of bucks to enter. You should earn that back in the first five minutes you are there.
      After you gain a little more knowledge the next stop is an auction. Don't worry if you don't understand everything that happens, not many people really do. Just be sure to go early to preview the inventory and make notes on things that interest you. Then listen to see what the auctioneer might say about the piece other than what is written in the program. And watch who bids and how and how much. After a few auctions you will start to see familiar faces and pick up patterns of activity from certain segments of the audience.
      Last of all don't ignore the classified section of your local newspaper. You might be surprised at what's there, not only in the "Antiques and Collectibles" section but also in the "garage sale" area.
      BASIC KNOWLEDGE - You shouldn't buy what you don't know and you won't know it without studying. You don't need to become a Road Show expert but you do need to know basic stuff like styles, periods, construction details and woods.
      Styles - It is important to know styles because while many classic styles have been repeated for centuries, like Queen Anne and Chippendale, some styles, like Eastlake and Renaissance Revival, are unique to a particular time and can help establish the age of a piece.

American Antiques

Last week a factory that had been in continuous operation since 1898 shuttered in the town where I was born. In its heyday it had employed hundreds of workers; there was a rich history of one hundred ten years of supplying goods to American homes. The remaining seventy loyal employees were given little notice and told to go home at the end of the work day and not return. This is not a unique news item. Factories are being closed in towns and cities across America on a daily basis. What has become unique and unusual is to find any new merchandise marked "Made in America."
Whether you shop at Wal-Mart or those pricey precinct department stores, you will be hard pressed to find American-made goods. A clerk in a high-style fashion boutique – with equally high prices – told me that she spent the entire day unloading container after container of clothing and accessories for the Spring line. With the exception of one box containing sportswear made in Viet Nam all of the other pieces of clothing and accessories were made in China.
Do not despair! There are plenty of opportunities to buy quality American products. You are holding the resource to find those great treasures right in your hands. Shop the auctions, antiques malls, antiques stores and shows that are advertised in this publication. You will find a variety of good merchandise that was made right here in the United States.
Now more than ever it is important to support our local businesses. Each of us can find a way to set aside a little from our budgets to save our local economies. Please do the patriotic thing and buy merchandise with an American provenance.
You might say, "How can I do this?" First, stay away from the box stores and second, do your shopping at antiques stores, shows and auctions. At these venues you will find a plethora of quality goods. From a set of china bottom-marked "Syracuse," "Buffalo" or "Shenango" to durable furniture that was made at the turn-of-the (20th) century by one of the venerable Midwestern factories, it is easy to fill an entire home with American-made products.
Need an eye-catching outfit? How about trying circa 1950s attire at your local vintage clothing store. Check the labels and you will find that it will be quick to put together an outfit – from hat to shoes – all made right here in the good old U.S.A.
While prices are reasonable, now is the time to start a new collection or two! Books, baseball cards, vintage calendars, early 20th-century postcards, almanacs and other interesting pieces of ephemera were churned out in great numbers at American printing presses. Likewise, potterers and glassworks mass produced wonderful objects that are highly valued by today’s collectors.

Who is an Antique Collector?

What can increase your sales volume and make you more productive day in and day out? You've probably heard this three word statement that separates those who wish they could do better, from those who really do.
Knowledge is power!
This three word statement is more than just a great philosophy. The more knowledge you have about antiques, the higher the increase in your overall long as you use that knowledge. Knowledge can literally make or break your antique business.
Here's a difficult lesson that was taught to a high-minded museum by a shrewd, savvy antique buyer with knowledge.
I love this story! It vividly illustrates the difference between knowing and being in the dark about antiques and their value. I was browsing in an antique shop a number of years ago, when I struck up a conversation with the owner. We talked about incredible finds that we had stumbled across over the years. Her story topped anything that I had ever done...hands down!
It all started when she attended the last day of a weekend sale at a local museum. It seems that the museum was desiring to remodel, and they were attempting to raise needed funds by selling off some antiques that had been found in the carriage barn that stood on the property. Obviously, she was not expecting to see anything spectacular because she assumed that the sale would be "cherry-picked".
And then it happened!
While walking through the sale, she discovered a large painting with a faded gold frame. Something about the painting looked strangely familiar, and she thought to herself, "I've seen that in a history book somewhere."
She quickly ran to her vehicle and poured over several large painting identification books that she had brought with her from her personal library. After taking 10 minutes to research, she was almost positive that this painting was a rare item indeed. She went back inside, and with a few minutes left in the sale, she wrote a personal check for $125. and loaded it into her station wagon.
Life took a sudden and drastic turn...for the better!
Upon arriving home, she began to dig deeper with her research tools. She "burned the midnight oil", and as morning broke, her heart was beating faster as she came to the realization that this painting was something very special.
The next morning, after more phone calls and cross-checking, she gingerly loaded the painting and took it to a temperature controlled vault in the same city where she purchased it. This $125. painting later sold for several million dollars at a major auction house, and this woman's financial future was changed in dramatic fashion literally overnight.