Ming dynasty gold tripod vessel

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2015-06-26 10:40:50

An extremely rare embellished gold tripod vessel and cover from the Ming Dynasty period became one of the world’s most valuable antiques in 2008.

The vessel

Dating from the Xuande Period of the Ming dynasty, the rare gold tripod vessel is made from 18 karat gold.

Masterfully crafted, the bombé sides of the thinly hammered gold body are finely chased with a pair of powerful five-clawed dragons on a cloud ground in pursuit of 'flaming pearls'.

The 'flaming pearls' are embellished with precious cabochon gems set in gold casing with the mouth further decorated with a band of detached scrolling leaves studded with gems including natural pearls, turquoise, rubies, sapphires, and cat's eye chrysoberyl.

The sides are fitted with a pair of thin wire swing handles, all supported on three short cabriole legs. The domed cover is further chased with a pair of dragons encircling a lotus petal medallion accented with further gems and a bud finial punctuated with a blue sapphire. The interior is fitted with a plain gold bowl with a short raised lip.

It is believed to be one of just eight examples of gold vessels from the period.

The auction

The gold tripod vessel was sold at Sotheby’s on Friday, April 11 2008 in Hong Kong. Estimates for the antique were only available on request but HK$60m was expected. In the event, it sold for HK$116.8m (US$15m).

The sale price made it the most valuable piece of Chinese metalwork anywhere in the world. A strong price had been expected as the market had been buoyed by an increasing number of Chinese millionaires, but the piece finally sold to a western bidder.

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