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Chinese jade is the surprise star lot of Devon auction

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 15, 2012

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MICHAEL BOWMAN, CHUDLEIGH

Sometimes even the auctioneer can be surprised by what a particular lot makes. For Michael Bowman, a piece of Chinese jade proved to be the wild card at his pre-Christmas sale in Chudleigh on December 1.

The jade pendant, believed to be 19th century, had a guide price of just a few hundred pounds, but ended up being sold to a telephone bidder in China for £3,900, with another interested buyer in the room.

"I put the estimate at £150-£200, obviously you hope for more, but there are only a few people who know what precious oriental things look like," says Michael.

Another fascinating lot from far afield was a North American Indian headdress, which sold to a London bidder for £650, a little over the guide price of £400-£600.

Believed to be a chief's war bonnet, the deerskin skull cap was decorated with eagle and partridge feathers, the points of the feathers tied with what might be human hair, and embellished with a geometric band of blue, white and red beads.

"This was probably early 20th century in age, which held it back from making thousands," says Michael. "North American Indian headdresses from the 19th century are worth a lot more."

A painting by the well-known Cornish painter Fred Yates, who died four years ago in his 80s, stirred up some nostalgic holiday memories for one bidder. The view of Fowey, painted in slubby oils from the other side of the River Fowey at Bodinnick, was bought for £1,900 by a woman who remembers the view from the other side of the river.

"She stayed there one memorable Christmas a few years ago, so that was one of the reasons she wanted to buy it," says Michael.

A particularly pretty offering was a singing bird musical box, which sold for £870, at the higher end of the estimate. "It is a sweet little thing, very photogenic," he says.

"The wooden box made me think it was a fairly late example of a traditional musical box which has been made for hundreds of years in European countries."

A particularly unusual lot in the exhibition was a string of freshwater pearls with an elegant diamond set clasp. They were sold for £1,300, considerably more than the £800-£1,200 estimate.

While cultured, or "farmed" pearls come up commonly at auction, the natural ones are a lot rarer, so fetch high prices when they do come up at auction. "I sold a natural pearl necklace about a year ago, and one about three or four years ago, and they are the only ones that stay in my mind in 26 years of being an auctioneer," says Michael.

Other lots in the auction were two diamond rings, which both attracted local buyers. The three stone ring fetched £3,000, while the solitaire made £4,000.

A silver-gilt Victorian card case, featuring an engraving of Osborne House on its lid, fetched £950, and a 19th century Chinese blue and white porcelain moon flask vase sold for £860.

Michael Bowman's next auction is on January 26. Visit www.michaeljbowman.co.uk.

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