Chinese Export Silver …and then

Chinese Export silver ..and then

As trade opened up with China after the Opium Wars so Chinese Export silver changed..

The Chinese Export silver , western style with the pseudo hallmarks – see my blog

developed into a whole new art form – a mix of East and West that may never again be repeated

The western form continued – tea sets, and dishes, presentation mugs and card case but now a whole lot of Chinese motifs became the decoration – lookalike western silver was a thing of the past

It was still a bespoke trade – the merchants would commission special pieces of Chinese Export silver but now the motifs became very important.  The Westerners were fascinated with the symbolism of these motifs

Let’s look at this  Chinese Export silver tea set – with a sugar bowl and a cream jug and in this case even a coffee pot -it is clearly a tea set destined for the Western market



But look closely – the bamboo motif has been applied to the round bodies and form the handles , finials and spouts. Bamboo symbolises resilience – it stays evergreen in the winter.





Bamboo is a  popular motif in Chinese export silver and seen in some lovely interpretations.




These small Chinese Export silver bud vases have been made to look like bamboo stems and even the gnarled feet look like bamboo








Here you see the motif on a Chinese Export silver vanity set – totally western in form, made in China -in this case in Shanghai and still in the original silk lined box






Another favourite Chinese Export silver motif was the chrysanthemum.  Chrysanthemums bloom through the frost – perfect for a birthday present for a mature lady or for a silver wedding anniversary gift.  Nothing better than blooming through the frost!





Again we have a vanity set but this time with just the brushes and the mirror – Again an example of Chinese Export silver in the Western style – note the intertwined initials of the original owner engraved on the polished surface.






This is a Chinese Export silver inkwell made in Shanghai in the late 19th century is totally western in form but has the chrysanthemum motif on the inkwell and the handles are even in the form of chrysanthemum stems.






Here is a Chinese Export silver  napkin ring-see the chrysanthemum branches decorating the body of the ring.  Bamboo edges adds a bit of resilience,  So western in shape but so much symbolism.





Another favourite motif found on Chinese Export silver is the plum blossom.

Plum blossom is the first flower that blooms in the Spring and symbolises new beginnings.   It was often requested by the Western buyer for a wedding gift or maybe for a present for a young girl and became very popular in the late 1890’s as the new century approached









This Chinese Export silver tray has plum blossom branches finely engraved on the centre around an oval reserve and the border has closely worked with plum blossoms.

What makes this tray extra special is the engraving on the back.  There are two sets of initials – presumably the bride and groom and the date of the wedding day – Sept 16,1891





Here we have more plum blossom – this time on a Chinese Export silver photo frame – again maybe for a wedding photo.  A charming diagonal frame.




Sometimes I am lucky enough to find a really specially commissioned piece–



like this large Chinese Export silver bowl.  We see the plum blossom motif again but this time there are pheasants among the branches.  Pheasants symbolise fertility and passion!






This late 19th century Chinese Export silver bowl in the Western Art Nouveau shape again must have also been specially commissioned.  The combination  applied decoration of cranes with pine trees is rarely found.  Cranes mate for life and pine is evergreen.  Let’s hope the gift of this bowl did indeed lead to a long and happy marriage






The Westerners often requested Chinese scenes on their Export silver buy.

Usually these would be battle scenes on tankards and maybe more tranquil scenes on other pieces.




Here we have a Chinese Export silver table box given as a gift.  The giver is wishing tranquil times to his friend- look at the amazing detail on all four sides and the lid





On this Chinese Export silver tankard we see a battle scene – with the flags marching off to war.   A much favoured scene subject.








And here is a Chinese Export silver child’s knife and fork with the scene of seers – maybe to guide the child in its future life.





But at the end of the day probably the most favoured motif in Chinese Export silver for the Westerners was the dragon. The dragon symbolised virility and strength.

The dragon was special for the Chinese and for the Westerner too.

Almost all of the dragons we see on Chinese Export silver have four claws – only reserved for the elite in China but now  used on Chinese Export silver crafted for the foreigners .  Only the Emperor qualified for five claws!

You can see it on finials, handles and spouts.



Here you see it on this Chinese Export silver Tea pot –

maybe not the easiest thing to pour from but impressive!

Maybe this tea pot is a bit over the top?



But there are so many pieces where dragons are used to tremendous effect




These two caddies – look how the dragon on the smaller caddy is clutching the magic pearl





Or on candlesticks




One of a pair of Chinese Export silver candlesticks – the dragon twisting around the straight column




Or this Chinese Export silver card case




Again we see the initials of the original owner and this time even a date.




Chinese Export silver is a very special combination of Chinese motifs and western shaped items.

All these pieces were crafted to be used – even if only to impress the neighbours!

They were made in a tremendous range of forms – prestige pieces to every day pieces

It was a bespoke trade – never made in any quantity and totally hand crafted.

Chinese Export silver is a product of especially fascinating circumstances –

it attests to an artistic legacy that is unique – a blend of East and West that may never again be repeated.

And unbelievably we have been able to collect over the years a wide range of these Chinese Export silver pieces in every form

So do browse our extensive collection for that extra special treasure.

We have a great range of unique Chinese Export items at affordable prices

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