Fence-born antiques expert helps Midlands man earn £390,000 after identifying rare 18th century Chinese wine ewer

A Pendle antiques expert has helped a Midlands man walk away with £390,000 after identifying a 'teapot' from his garage as an astonishingly rare Chinese wine ewer dating back to the 1700s.

Tuesday, 20th October 2020, 12:30 pm
Fence-born antiques valuer Edward Ryecroft with the 300-year-old wine ewer which sold for £390,000 at auction last month

Despite the anonymous owner, a 51-year-old semi-retired construction worker from South Derbyshire, fearing that experts would enjoy a laugh at his expense over the tiny 8.5cm pot, Hansons antiques valuer Edward Ryecroft, from Fence, suspected that the piece would be valuable as soon as he saw it.

"The seller was thinking of taking it to a charity shop, but I said it would be a salable piece because it was of exquisite quality," said Edward, who studied furniture restoration at Burnley College and antiques and design at UCLan. "I never even contemplated it could fetch the amount of money it did.

"I thought it would maybe reach four figures, never six," added Edward, 34, having worked at Hansons for seven years. "I was delighted for the vendor and I felt like I'd done something good to help them achieve a life-changing price."

The seller believes the ewer made its way into his family through his grandfather, who was stationed in the Far East during the Second World War and was awarded a Burma Star. It apparently spent time in a loft and a relative's garage before lockdown spurred the seller on to have a clear out which saw him find the piece and decide to get it valued at Hansons Auctioneers’ Etwall Auction Centre near Derby.

At auction, the rare, Beijing-enamelled object, which dates back to the Qianlong period (1735-99), drew interest from eight international phone bidders who battled to purchase the 18th century imperial Chinese wine ewer. The piece smashed its £20,000 - £40,000 estimate to reach £390,000 when the gavel fell in favour of a London buyer late last month.

“I’m thrilled," the seller told Hansons. "This will change a few things for us all; it’s come at a really good time. I sat and watched the auction live at home with my brother and family. It was tense. I got a few cans of Guinness in beforehand. We’ll be going for a drink tonight and toasting granddad. I might even buy that metal detector I’ve always wanted.

“I’d always thought the teapot, which is what I’ve always called it, was special," he continued, with two almost identical ewers, both with Qianlong reign marks, residing in the National Palace Museum in Taipei, Taiwan, and the Palace Museum in Beijing, China. "Even so, when I took it to Hansons, I was still unsure so dug out a few other bits and pieces for them to value in case they laughed at me when I pulled out the teapot.”

"You develop an eye for things and an understanding of quality," said Edward of the find. "If you can recognise quality and have a fundamental understanding of what something is, its production method, and the reasons behind something being made, then that's the crux of assessing a piece.

"I grew up on a dairy farm, but I wasn't really interested in farming and I loved old and interesting antique furniture," Edward added. "I followed my passion and I absolutely love my job. Antiques provide a tangible link to the past, which fascinates me."