|Beware of provenance information when buying antique porcelain!
When buying Chinese porcelain you will always come in contact with the thorny issue of provenance!
The much beloved practice of mentioning provenance in antique dealer circles is of little real value, except in rare cases.
Provenance may give a false sense of security (authenticity) when buying antique porcelain
or antiques in general.
Even at estate sales when items may come from highly regarded antiques collections you cannot be sure that all Chinese porcelain is authentic.
The previous owners may have added many different items. not in their specialty field, to their collection over the years. The owners may not have had the necessary expertise to verify authenticity of all pieces .
Red decoration typical for the
dealers who have really no intention to deceive customers in the first
place may use provenance to show how legitimate an item is. This is more
likely if they are not expert at identifying Chinese porcelain. It
covers for their inability to judge...
Tips for antique porcelain buying
Buy from people who know their wares, but don't rely on their judgement, rely on yours! Even dealers admit to occasionally buying fake Chinese porcelain by mistake. They will often try to resell it to compensate for their loss.
Only with your own independent knowledge can you positively avoid problems like the above. Study all related points and learn to judge yourself whether a piece of porcelain is a true antique. :-)
Do some research und you will find that buying authentic antiques in China is difficult, and legally exporting
them is often impossible. Don't deceive yourself. You cannot get better
or cheaper antiques directly in China because China generally is
"cheap". China is strictly protecting its ancient cultural objects and
As a collector/buyer of Chinese antiques you should know that China currently prohibits the export of antique items over 100 years old. This is especially true for high-class porcelain from private kilns and all from official kilns.
According to more recent information it now seems that even the export of old-looking items of less age than that may be restricted, possibly because some antiques that are "younger" than 100 years were made the same way and look the same as older ones.
If you are buying online, either Ebay or otherwise, you need to be especially careful of who sells Chinese antiques. Obviously, there is a high risk that antique items dispatched from China are reproductions or fakes due to the reasons stated above.
Domestic trading of a certain type of ceramics from the Tang dynasty has also been forbidden for a while. Better forget it... you won't be able to get a real one of these directly from China,
Buying Antique Porcelain
The only thing you may be sure of when buying at a Wenwuguan is that these items are allowed to be exported legally. Mostly either because they are plenty, of comparatively low quality, or they are otherwise of little interest in regard to preserving Chinese heritage.
See China export restrictions.
Introduction to Chinese Porcelain