Ceramics as an art form has been around for centuries, when pots and vases were hand-painted. In today's world of mass production ceramic decals are used to decorate pieces but it's the hand crafted items from centuries ago which really excite collectors.
Porcelain ceramics is big, big business. Like many forms of art, like paintings and sculptures, ceramics are much sought after by keen enthusiasts as well as investors looking for sound investment pieces.
Here are 5 types of porcelain that have produced some of the most expensive items ever sold at auction:
5. Joseon Porcelain
Sale price : $1.2 million
During the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1897) some of the very finest and most precious ceramics were made. Remarkably, in May 2013, more than 200 pieces of Korean white porcelain dating back to the Joseon Kingdom were unearthed in Seoul. Many of these items were once a favourite among aristocratic collectors during the 17th and 18th centuries. The milky-white body, minimal decoration and simple curves of the white pottery were said to represent neo-Confucian ideals. White porcelain was made made at more than 130 degrees Celsius and were extremely strong and durable. It has been said that when royal babies were born, their placentas were buried according to a royal ritual procedure, and the white jars with lids were used to contain them.
4. Blood Red Porcelain
Sale price : $9.5 million
This totally unique method of creating ceramics surprisingly came about by accident. Bronze was often used in Changsha kilns during the Tang Dynasty (618-907).
The bronze made the porcelain green. Changing the firing temperatures in the kilns dramatically changed the colour blood red – hence the name.
The Song Dynasty (960-1279) vastly improved the technique of producing blood red porcelain. However, there was still room for improvement – improvements that were made during the Ming Dynasty (1368- 1644).
Blood red porcelain is notoriously difficult and expensive to create. However, the effects are quite simply stunning. The high demand for this kind of pottery far out-ways its supply, which, in addition to the complexity and cost of producing, also adds to its value.
3. Jihong Porcelain
Sale price : $10 million
Translated, Ji means 'to sacrifice' and hong means 'red'. Jihong porcelain was originally produced for sacrificial ceremonies and was made in Jindezhen. Coral, jade, pearls and other precious gems were added to some of the Jihong pieces to further increase their beauty and value. Jihong porcelain was the choice of Emperors, making it very rare indeed. There are less than one hundred Jihong porcelain objects in museums worldwide. Although Jihong porcelain continued to be made, nothing has come close to the quality of its original manufacture.
2. Blue and White Porcelain
Sale price : $21.6 million
Blue and white porcelain can be traced back to to the early ninth century in Henan province, China. In Jingdezen, there was a mass production of blue and white porcelain in the early 14th century. Jingdezhen is often referred to as the porcelain capital of China.
The evolution of blue and white ceramics has continued through the centuries and is still produced today in some English potteries. However, these items are mere copies of the original blue and white designs that were used to create beautiful items and have no real value compared to those manufactured in the East. Stoke on Trent potteries produce some excellent ceramic tableware with professionally designed ceramic decals.
1. Qing Dynasty Porcelain
Sale price : $84 million
After the Ming Dynasty came the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) which is seen as the most successful of all the Chinese dynasties. The style of porcelain created during these years was very dramatically changed. It became more colourful and included meticulously painted scenes. The Chinese craftsmen used a variety of underglaze pigments made up of five colours. This style is very much loved and appreciated in the West and can be seen everywhere.
Outside the Chinese speaking world, the British Museum has one of the world's finest and most comprehensive collections of Qing Dynasty ceramics.