The Complete Guide to Buying Chinese Antiques on eBay

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The Complete Guide to Buying Chinese Antiques on eBay

An antique is a collectible object that usually has a high value because of its age, style, beauty or sentimental attachment. Antiques are a helpful way for society to understand ancient customs, cultures and artistic styles. As well as being purchased for sentimental and decorative purposes, antiques are often seen as being a sound investment because they are likely to hold their value and sometimes even increase in value, if a particular style becomes fashionable and demand increases.

History of Chinese Antiques

The invention of pottery in the Neolithic period, (5000-2200 BC), paved the way for the beginning of the production of Chinese ceramics. This early production of Chinese pottery was usually in the form of painted or carved pottery. This was the start of a long history of Chinese ceramic production. It is evident that during the Han dynasty (220 BC-220 AD), the glazing of ceramic goods became popular within Chinese societies. Glazing is when a layer of porcelain enamel is fused onto ceramic through firing and this technique has many positive effects. It can strengthen, waterproof and, at the same time, decorate the ceramic piece. Glazing was a real advancement in the world of Chinese ceramics.

As time progressed, throughout the various Chinese dynasties, the production of ceramics became more advanced. This led to a more accomplished style of using ceramics and the results were that the pieces being produced became more refined and the technique of using colour through glazing became better understood.  The reigns of Kang Hsi (1622-1722) Yung Cheng (1723-1735) and Chien Lung (1736-1796) are considered to be the height of Chinese ceramic production. The standard of enamel glazing became far more advanced and this gave the ceramic pieces a much smoother and brilliant finish.

The other main type of antique that Chinese cultures are known for producing is furniture. It is known from early excavations that stylistically, Chinese society had a liking for furniture that was both minimalist and simplistic. These pieces of furniture would often be made unique by intricate carvings and colour patterns. The early history of Chinese furniture shows that the ancient Chinese sat or knelt on the floor when dining, so a high amount of the early Chinese furniture consists of low tables, arm rests and screens.

The antique furniture produced during the Ming and Qing dynasties are known for being different from anything that had been produced before. The furniture made during these periods is known for its beauty and refined style. It is considered to be the benchmark to which all Chinese furniture should be judged against. The makers of the furniture spent extended periods of time creating pieces that were elegant, unique and of the showed the highest levels of craft.

Discover Chinese Antiques

Buying Chinese antiques can be fun, educational and is something that can give the buyer a real sense of how cultures used to live in olden times. Owning the products of ancient times is one of the best insights that can be had into ancient civilisations. It can give the buyer the ability to step back in time via the objects in their hands - through antiques, you can learn about how a certain culture ate, drank, slept and socialised. Antiques are a history lesson in themselves. They are a primary source of evidence for the development of human cultures, customs and societies.

The Chinese culture is one of the oldest in human civilisation. It led the way for many other cultures and societies. Chinese culture has thousands of years of history and it is considered one of the four great ancient civilisations of the world, along with, India, Babylon and Egypt. There is evidence to suggest that Chinese civilisation first began between seven and eight thousand years ago. This long and established history means that there is a large amount of Chinese antiques on the market.

When making an antique purchase, there are many things that the buyer should consider and learn. This will make the process of buying antiques clearer. For example, what style or period of antique will most suit your tastes? Why are you buying antiques? Is it for decorative or investment purposes? What is your budget?

Different Types of Chinese Antiques

With its long and colourful history, Chinese cultures, over time, developed the skills and methods to produce many practical and artistic objects used in everyday life. Here is a list of some of the Chinese antiques that a buyer may see advertised.

  • Vase
  • Pot
  • Pitcher
  • Bowl
  • Cup
  • Plate
  • Incense burner
  • Statue
  • Chairs
  • Tables
  • Jade
  • Carvings
  • Chest of drawers
  • Cabinet
  • Bureau
  • Bookcase
  • Wardrobe
  • Rug
  • Mirror
  • Sculptures
  • Jug
  • Glass
  • Jewellery
  • Desk
  • Cupboard
  • Chest
  • Clock

Materials Used in Chinese Antiques

Ancient Chinese cultures used various different types of materials when creating art and wares. Below is a list and short description of some of these materials.

Type

Uses

Advantages

Kaolin

Helps make up Chinese porcelain. Mainly consists of the clay, Kaolinite

Light concentrations can yield attractive colours

Feldspar

Makes up part of Chinese porcelain. Made up of tectosilicate minerals.

Acts as a flux, meaning that the glazing temperature can be minimised because fluxes melt at a lower temperature

Quartz

Makes up part of Chinese porcelain. Common mineral in earth’s core

Has chemical stability, not affected by glazing and can yield attractive colours

Wood

Used to make furniture, practical and decorative homeware

Is abundant in nature. It is strong and it can last for hundreds of years if treated properly

Bronze

Excellent for tool-making, statues and homeware such as pots and pans

Strong and long-lasting. Resistant to salt water corrosion

Useful Accessories for Chinese Antiques

There are accessories that are important to consider to when buying Chinese antiques. The pieces being purchased will often be valuable, so it is important to care for them properly.

  • Cleaning materials - It is important that you have the correct type of cleaning material for the particular type of antique that you are cleaning. Using the wrong type of material could cause damage.
  • Carry case - It is a good idea to have a well-made case to carry antiques around in. A good case will protect the antiques and prevent cracks or damage.
  • Display case - With valuable pieces, especially delicate materials such as porcelain, it is imperative to keep them in a display case, preferably glass. This will properly protect the antiques from breakages or other accidents.

Factors to Consider When Buying Chinese Antiques

There are a lot of things to consider when you decide to buy Chinese antiques. Below is a list of considerations that should be made before and during each purchase.

  • Measurements - Ask for the exact measurements or dimensions of the piece that you are buying. Sometimes in photographs, the size of an object can be misleading. It is essential to ask for exact dimensions so that both seller and buyer have all of the information that is needed before making a decision on a purchase.
  • Get to know your subject - Studying the type of item that you want to buy is definitely advisable. Having a higher level of knowledge about what you are buying will ensure that you develop the correct understanding of your chosen field of antiques: you will be more likely to understand price structures for pieces. You will also be likely to get more enjoyment from antique buying. Research will help you understand the intricacies and nuances of your chosen piece a lot more. There are many books printed on the subject of Chinese antiques, so visit your local library or bookshop to gain a helpful insight.
  • Authenticity - Try to determine the authenticity of the piece that you are about to buy. It is always best to be cautious when buying antiques. A way of authenticating the piece is to compare it to examples that are certified originals. You can do this by conducting online research on the particular product or looking it up in a specialised reference book.

How to Care For Chinese Antiques

Due to their age and delicacy, antiques require specialised care and attention. There are many mistakes that people make that can either damage the quality of their antiques or even decrease its value. Here are some tips on how to properly care for your antiques.

Antique wood furniture should be dusted regularly. Make sure that you use a soft cloth when dusting and polishing.

The polish that you use on wood is important. A beeswax type of polish should be used - apply the polish, leave it for around 12 hours and then smoothly clean off.

Do not use spray polish, it depletes the natural quality of the wood over time.

Monitor the amount of sunlight that your antique wood furniture gets. Over a prolonged period of time, too much sunlight can dry out the wood and cause discolouration.

When cleaning porcelain antiques, it is essential to hold the piece by the main body and not by the handle. The handle is the weakest point on porcelain pieces and should be handled with extreme care.

Use a soft sponge to clean your porcelain antiques. Never use a harsh or abrasive cleaner.

Never put tape of any kind on your porcelain. When it is eventually peeled off, it can take enamel off with it.

Finding Chinese Antiques on eBay

Once you determine the type of Chinese antique that you want to purchase, visit the Antiques portal on eBay, click on ‘Chinese’ and start searching item listings. The Categories list on the left-hand side of the eBay page helps to narrow the search.

Searching for Chinese Antiques on eBay

Search eBay listing titles for specific words when shopping for Chinese antiques. For example, to find a Chinese porcelain jug, type Chinese porcelain jug into the search box, and then click the Advanced button to customise the results. Also visit eBay’s Search Tips page for more advice on searching for Chinese Antiques with keywords. If you can’t find the Chinese Antiques that you want, try shopping eBay Stores.

Conclusion

With its rich history and culture, China has produced some of the most collectible antiques available. Antique collecting is a past-time that can be fun and educational, but remember to thoroughly investigate the pieces that you are interested in buying. Learn about the different types of antiques and familiarise yourself with their costs and traits. Once you equip yourself with all of the relevant information, you can purchase Chinese antiques safely and securely on eBay.

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