Chinese Export Silver: When East Meets West

Chinese export silver goods are sought after by many collectors.  They represent an unusual confluence of Western and Eastern design.   Chinese export silver as a term refers to Chinese goods made from silver specifically for Western buyers.

Chinese Export Silver Toast Rack mark of Wong Shing
Chinese Silver Toast Rack, circa 1820-1860
Early Trade Period

When trade began on a large scale between European nations and China (around 1745), Chinese artisans saw a huge influx of buyers looking for Western-style goods.  Luckily for Chinese artisans, silver was cheaper in China.  By the end of the 1700s, this was especially true.  Mexico was pushing for independence, causing disruptions to the previously fruitful silver mines there and in South America.  These disruptions made the price of silver in the Western world skyrocket.  The labor costs were also lower and the ability to create silver goods was not hampered by the strict trade rules maintained by the Chinese emperor and Queen Elizabeth.  This made it easy for Chinese silversmiths to create Western-style goods at a fraction of the cost.  Most of this production took place in the port city of Guangzhou, also known as Canton.  In the early trade period, Chinese artisans crafted imitation Western goods that mimicked both the form and design of Western goods.  Early goods even had marks on the bottom meant to imitate hallmarks.

Middle Trade Period
Chinese Export Silver Pitcher with Bamboo Design, Mark of Hoaching
Chinese Silver Pitcher, circa 1825-1870

By the mid-1800s, Chinese artisans had begun adding Chinese motifs to their goods.  Classic British designs now had popular Chinese symbols like bamboo trees, dragons, and lotuses.  These symbols had strong power in Chinese culture.  Other common images that denote a silver piece as likely Chinese in origin are chrysanthemums, plum blossoms, orchids, phoenixes, peonies, and irises.  The marks on the bottom identified the silversmiths with a combination of Latin lettering and logo-like pictures.

Late Trade Period

By the late trade period, ranging from the end of the 19th century through the mid 20th century, artisans introduced more Chinese influence into their pieces.  The forms were increasingly ornate and included almost exclusively Chinese motifs and concepts.  The Chinese companies that created these silver artworks also began working with Western firms like Tiffany & Co. in New York.  This period dragons used as handles and feet, and lotus flowers as the bowls of silver items.

Chinese Export Silver, Mark of Wang Hing with British Import Marks
Chinese Silver Bowl, 1895


One of the most comprehensive collections of Chinese export silver is located nearby in New York City at the I.M. Chait Gallery.  The gallery and auction house helped define the field of Chinese export silver and were pioneers in categorizing it.  At Mark Lawson Antiques, we can help identify your silver, whether it’s Chinese export or other types of silver.

At The Met: ‘Art of Native America: The Charles and Valerie Diker Collection’

The Metropolitan Museum of Art currently has on exhibit 116 works of art and objects of Native America culture.  It features works from over fifty cultures across North America based off of geographical location:  Woodlands, Plains, Plateau, California and Great Basin, Southwest, Northwest Coast, and Arctic.

The exhibit, entitled ‘Art of Native America: The Charles and Valerie Diker Collection’, features 116 pieces dating from the second century into the early twentieth century.  The collection from Charles and Valerie Diker is considered to be be one of the most significant private holdings of Native American art.  It includes sculpture from British Columbia and Alaska, baskets from California, pottery from southwestern pueblos, drawings from the Plains, and rare pieces from the eastern Woodlands.

Native American Shoulder Bag ca. 1840
   Shoulder Bag ca. 1840

The collection has a wide variety of beautifully hand crafted objects.  One of the more vibrant types of work are the nineteenth-century shoulder bags, worn by Woodlands men for formal dress.  If the imagery within the bead work is asymmetrical as well as the strap, that indicates a great Seminole example.  When worn, one design appears on the front and another on the back, which is typical of the period.  A Delaware artist made the bag pictured here, following the tribe’s relocation there in the mid-nineteenth century. The symmetrical, geometric motifs in the center reflect the beginnings of Prairie-style bead work.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is located on Lenapehoking which is a term for the lands historically inhabited by the Native American people known as the Lenape.  The museum recognizes and praises this with their exhibition acknowledging their cultural and spiritual connections to the area.

When: The exhibition opened October 4, 2018 and is ongoing.

For more information and a fantastic conservation story video of a Yup’ik mask visit the exhibition website.

Where: It is located in Gallery 746 of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, located at 1000 5th Avenue in New York City and is open Sunday through Thursday from 10AM to 5:30PM, Friday and Saturday from 10AM to 9PM.


Admission is $25 for adults, $17 for seniors, $12 for students, and free for children under 12.  New York State residents have the ability to choose what to pay.  This exhibit and all others are included in museum admission. There are also multiple membership options available.

If you have a piece you would like to sell or are curious about, call us at (518)-587-8787 or send an e-mail to to make an appointment at either our Saratoga or Colonie locations!

Unidentified maker 19th century Malachite, Gold Albany Institute of History & Art, gift of J. Townsend Lansin

Bejeweled and Bedazzled: Exhibit Opening At Albany Institute of History and Art

Bejeweled and Bedazzled is opening this January 26th at the Albany Institute of History and Art.  Mark Lawson Antiques is a proud sponsor of the exhibit. This exhibit, lasting until July 28th of 2019, will feature jewelry from the museum’s collection.  There will be more than a hundred pieces of jewelry from four centuries worth of craftsmanship.  The Institute will use the pieces in the exhibit to tell stories of why and where they were purchased, who owned them, and when they were worn. The materials range broadly, from ceramic to mother of pearl, from gold to hair.

Unidentified maker 19th century Malachite, Gold Albany Institute of History & Art, gift of J. Townsend Lansin

Bejeweled and Bedazzled will be divided into three separate sections.  First is jewelry acquired from Europe.  This section spans Italian micromosaic brooches with vignettes from Roman ruins and carved shells with goddesses.  The next section is filled with jewelry that references ancient times.  Brightly colored scarab beetles call back to Egyptian decoration. Gilded filigree brooches emulate the opulence of Byzantium.  The final section is comprised of memorial jewelry.  This includes Victorian hair jewelry, a type of jewelry woven from the hair of loved ones.  Also included are brooches and lockets with hand-painted miniature portraits of family members.

Unknown maker 1785 Pearl, Gold, Ivory Albany Institute of History & Art, gift of Mrs. Cornelia S. Cate and Mrs. Robert Davison, 1968.8.1 “D.T.-B. and C.S. / 1785” engraved on back of clasp. Bracelet given to Cornelia Stuyvesant by her groom Dirck Ten Brock.


This is the Institute’s first exhibit focusing on their incredible jewelry collection. We at Mark Lawson Antiques are proud to be sponsors of Bejeweled and Bedazzled, which will run from January 26th through July 28th, 2019.  For museum hours, please click here. We will be hosting an appraisal day at the Institute on March 30th from 10:30AM to 2PM.  This post will be updated with more information regarding the appraisal day.


Additional Resources:

Albany Institute of History and Art.  For any general questions and information on concurrent exhibits.

A history of jewelry.  An interesting read by the Victoria & Albert Museum.

Micromosaic Jewelry.  More information on the history of micromosaic jewelry by the Gemology Institute of America.

Art Deco: 1920s Filigree Jewelry

1920s Art Deco 18K White Gold Filigree Jewelry Diamond Bar Pin

Origin of Filigree

Filigree jewelry has long been popular, with found samples in southern Asia dating to a few thousand years old and gold filigree flourishing in the Fatimid era of Egypt.  Originally, filigree was made with delicate threads of precious metals being hand-manipulated by jewelers into intricate designs.  This process took a lot of time and required expert craftsman.  This made filigree jewelry very expensive.  With the growth of industrialization in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the production of filigree jewelry became faster and more inexpensive than ever.  This led to an explosion in the manufacturing of In the 1920s, filigree jewelry was used to show off.  The 1920s were a time of opulence; flagrant displays of wealth were not only common but encouraged.

1920s 18K White Gold Filigree Diamond Solitaire Ring


Factory Filigree Jewelry

In the early twentieth century, many pieces of filigree were made through the use of die-cut stamps.  Automation allowed intricate designs to be punched from solid sheets of metal.  This decreased both the time and expertise needed to create astounding pieces of filigree jewelry.  Stamped filigree jewelry is distinguishable from handcrafted pieces because the edges of the open spaces are sharper.  They are closer to 90 degree corners, unlike the rounded edges of hand crafted filigree.  The automation of the creation of filigree led to a huge number of filigree jewelry pieces being created.  This increase in production was also due in part to the onset of the Art Deco movement.  The geometric designs of filigree mirrored the abstract geometry of popular Art Deco design like that seen in the Chrysler building.


Why Gold?

Art Deco Solid White Gold Filigree Ruby Stick Pin


The most common metal used to create filigree jewelry in the 1920s was 18k white gold.  It was soft enough to stamp with intricate designs but strong enough to hold the delicate designs.  Additionally, the white gold color complemented the diamonds that were frequently added to the jewelry.  Filigree was common in everything from rings to panel bracelets to necklaces. Filigree pieces retain their value not just because of the charming aesthetic appeal but also due to the continued fascination with the Art Deco designs and rising gold prices.


Value for pieces can vary based on age, condition, maker, karat level, and the intricacy of the design.  We at Mark Lawson Antiques love well-made filigree jewelry.  If you have a piece you’d like to sell, call us at (528)-587-8787 or send an e-mail to to make an appointment at either our Saratoga or Colonie locations!


Additional Resources

Fatimid Jewelry, Metropolitan Museum of Art.  A history of jewelry, especially filigree jewelry, in Fatimid Egypt.

Art Deco Jewelry Appraisal, Antiques Roadshow, PBS.  An appraisal of a stunning Art Deco necklace.

Edwardian Filigree (a decade prior to Art Deco), Gemology Institute of America.  A survey of Edwardian filigree jewelry at the turn of the century.

Opening at the Met: ‘The Art of London Firearms’

Flintlock pistol, made by Wogdon & Barton.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is opening a new exhibit featuring exquisitely crafted firearms, highlighting the abilities of British gunmakers.  The exhibit, entitled ‘The Art of London Firearms’, features seventeen separate firearms, each made in London.  Instead of rifles and long guns, the focus will be on pistols dating from the mid-eighteenth century into the early nineteenth century.  Included is a pistol made for the Prince of Wales, King George IV of England.  The pieces are pulled from the Metropolitan’s permanent collection and many of them have never been on display.

In the period encapsulated by the show, a group of gunmakers with workshops on the outskirts of London and became fierce competitors.  This competition led to rapid design growth, paring down Baroque design elements for simple, elegant, and efficient design.  These gunsmiths include Durs Egg, John Manton, and Samuel Brunn.



When: The exhibition opens January 29, 2019 and lasts until January 29, 2020.  For more information visit the exhibition website.

Where: It will be in Gallery 380 of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, located at 1000 5th Avenue in New York City and is open Sunday through Thursday from 10AM to 5:30PM, Friday and Saturday from 10AM to 9PM.

Pair of flintlock pistols, made by Samuel Brunn.

Admission is $25 for adults, $17 for seniors, $12 for students, and free for children under 12.  New York State residents have the ability to choose what to pay.  This exhibit and all others are included in museum admission. There are also multiple membership options available.


Well-made firearms have always had collectible value and can be sold for a tidy sum.  When not in museum exhibits, guns like these are often in personal collections.  Collectors can find more information on the sale of these and other types of firearms here.

Andrew Clemens

The Remarkable Sand Art of Andrew Clemens

Andrew ClemensWhen viewing a work of sand art by Andrew Clemens it is almost impossible to imagine how someone could create such a thing. To perfectly manipulate individual grains of sand in a bottle to illustrate words and images is unheard of. However, Andrew Clemens, a 19th century artist, mastered a technique to do just that, creating remarkable objects that are highly sought after today.

Born in Iowa in 1857, Andrew Clemens suffered from encephalitis at the age of 5 resulting in permanent deafness. From 1870 to 1877 he spent his time at the State School for Deaf and Dumb only returning to his family during the summers. It was then that Clemens began developing his unique talent of creating intricate worlds in colored sand. He would collect various colors of sand from Pictured Rocks, a National Lakeshore on the coast of Lake Superior in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan best known for it’s colorful sandstone cliffs. Clemens would use a self-engineered stick with a small scoop at the end to pour sand into the jar and then a pointed stick to move the grains into place. In the July 29, 1875 issue the North Iowa Times wrote of his craft:

Andrew Clemens“On Saturday we had the pleasure of viewing the handiwork of Andrew Clemens, who is engaged in bottling the various colors of sand from Pictured Rocks. One jar of this sand, representing the forty odd colors, weighing twenty pounds, we particularly admired as displaying the skill and ingenuity of the young artist who has arranged the various colors in an attractive, artistic and skillful manner. […] The young artist was just fourteen days engaged upon this one jar […]”

Upon completion, Clemens would seal the bottle and adhere a label to the bottom detailing the origin of the sand, his name and location. Few of these magnificent creations exist today due their fragility. However, those that have come up to auction have sold for high amounts.

Andrew ClemensThe pictured work of sand art by Clemens c. 1890 sold at Skinner in 2016 for $81,180. On one side is a carefully crafted eagle holding an American flag surrounded by geometric patterns, while on the other is a dove above a floral motif with a continuation of the colorful all over design. The object far exceeded the estimate of $8,000-12,000 proving that collectors vie to have one of his works in their collection. The wonderful sand art has also been featured in two episodes of the PBS series Antiques Roadshow. Discovered at the 2002 Hot Springs, AK event, a man brought “colored sand in a jar” that had been presented to his Great Grandfather from two of his friends. Wes Cowan appraised the object by Clemens for an auction estimate of $4,000-$6,000. The clip can be watched here. More recently, an Andrew Clemens work of art was featured on a Harrisburg, PA episode that took place in the summer of 2017. Appraiser Allan Katz informed the owner that the one-of-a-kind jar would retail for $30,000-$50,000. The clip can be watched here.

Sadly, Andrew Clemens died of tuberculosis in 1894 at the age of 37. His sand art is remarkable. It took patience, precision, and perfect technique to craft such objects that have yet to be recreated today.

View of Round-Top in the Catskill Mountains

‘Thomas Cole’s Journey’ at The Metropolitan Museum of Art

On January 30th the exhibition Thomas Cole’s Journey Atlantic Crossings opened at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The exhibition celebrates one of America’s leading landscape painters, Thomas Cole (1801-1848), who first immigrated to the United States 200 years ago. He continued to cross the Atlantic multiple times, including a return journey to England in 1829-1831, a trip to Italy in 1831-1832, and another trip to America, specifically New York, from 1832-1837. Designed to highlight these travels the exhibition is arranged in six sections including, Industrial England, American Wilderness, London: Imperial Metropolis, Italy: The Grand Tour, Consummation, and Cole’s Legacy.

Dudley, Worcestershire
Dudley, Worcestershire, ca. 1832

The first gallery, Industrial England, contains works that give insight into the world in which Cole grew up. He lived in England at the height of the Industrial Revolution as the factory system and machine processing were on the rise. Urban life was booming and this can be seen in the art of those before him. Included in this gallery is Dudley, Worcestershire by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) which depicts the new industrialized city. From the point of view of a busy canal port, we can see smoke stacks in the background and pollution entering the atmosphere. In viewing landscapes such as this we can see the harsh juxtaposition between the place that Cole grew up and the tranquil nature scenes that he later painted.

View of Round-Top in the Catskill Mountains
View of Round-Top in the Catskill Mountains, 1827

In 1818, Cole and his family immigrated from Liverpool to Philadelphia and later, in 1825, relocated to New York. Already yearning to be a painter, Cole took lessons and studied historical greats. During his first summer in New York he took a steamboat up the Hudson River where he began his exploration of the American landscape through painting. The great 1827 oil painting View of Round-Top in the Catskill Mountains is a prime example of the style that Cole has become so well known for. Devoid of all human interaction his landscapes were the opposite of the England in which he was raised. Cole’s relationship with the American wilderness would influence generations of artists to come.

Effect for Newstead Abbey, Nottinghamshire, England
Effect for Newstead Abbey, Nottinghamshire, England, 1830

Cole arrived in London in the summer of 1829 to study the artists of Europe and paint the land of his birth. There he created works of art that boldly contrast his quiet landscapes of America. Effect for Newstead Abbey, Nottinghamshire, England, an 1830 work, completely lacks color. The clouds in the sky are dark and dangerous, the figures in the foreground appear as silhouettes. The work greatly contrasts View of Round-Top in the Catskill Mountains but echoes paintings by his predecessors, such as the earlier discussed Dudley, Worcestershire by J. M. W. Turner.

Interior of the Colosseum, Rome
Interior of the Colosseum, Rome, 1832

In the summer of 1831 Cole traveled to Italy where he resided in Florence, the Tuscan countryside, and Rome. It was in these places that he expanded his skills by focusing on the human figure and sketching while visiting important classical and Renaissance landmarks. In Interior of the Colosseum, Rome the viewer enters the great Colosseum, desolate and overrun with green flora. It is in this painting that Cole combines his interest in England and America as the man made structure of the Colosseum is reclaimed by nature.

Progress (The Advance of Civilization)
Progress (The Advance of Civilization), 1853

In 1832, Cole returned to New York and worked heavily in the Catskills to produce some of his most iconic works that would continue to influence generations of future artists. He took on students and established a tradition of landscape painting later know as the Hudson River School. The pictured oil on canvas by Asher Brown Durand painted in 1853 shows Cole’s legacy. Progress (The Advance of Civilization) speaks directly to the environmental issues tackled in his works — the left side is peaceful wilderness juxtaposed by the figures on the right and enhanced by the title. Cole painted to illustrate the beauty of the wild Earth and as manifest destiny, the expansion of the United States throughout America, increased in popularity the importance of his works grew.

Cole died at the age of 47 leaving a great legacy to be remembered and studied by painters and scholars for decades to come.

The exhibition will run until May 13, 2018. For more information visit the exhibition website here.

A catalog was produced in conjunction with the exhibition and can be purchased through the Met store.

Eugene Iverd

Appraisal Event Finds: A Saturday Evening Post Original Painting

Eugene IverdThis Eugene Iverd painting was the hidden treasure of the appraisal booth at the Niskayuna Reformed Church’s Antique Show on Friday, January 19th. The show had a wonderful selection of vendors and attendees brought a great variety of antiques for Mark to appraise.

Eugene Iverd (1893-1936), born George Melvin Erickson, was a Minnesota artist well-known in the 1920s for his paintings and illustrations. He submitted his first picture to The Saturday Evening Post in 1926 with them publishing his first artwork on the March 13th cover of the same year. During his career, Iverd produced 55 magazine covers and approximately 60 advertisements for clients including Campbell’s Soup Company and Monarch Foods.

This beautiful painting, entitled ‘Lighting the Pumpkin,’ was published on the cover of the November 3, 1934 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. The framed painting, measuring approximately 26″ x 18″, wowed onlookers with its beauty. The young girl makes eye contact with the viewer, a bright smile on her face. Light spills from the jack-o-lantern as the young boy in costume, his face covered in glee, puts a match into it. Beyond the warm glow, pairs of spooky eyes emerge from the darkness.

Eugene IverdThe artworks of The Saturday Evening Post have always had a special place in the heart of America. There is a certain nostalgia for the jolly characters that graced the cover each week. ‘Lighting the Pumpkin’ is an exquisite example that is estimated at $10,000-$20,000.

To view more of Eugene Iverd’s covers of The Saturday Evening Post visit here.

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