That’s right. This small, carved jade bangle sold at Christie’s New York for more than a quarter million dollars – on an estimate of $7000-9000. It wasn’t the only piece of jewelry that sold for well above estimates, as I mention in this post, but none came close to the bidding war this piece inspired.
It’s the kind of bracelet you could wear on the subway and nobody would look twice – unless you happen to be sitting next to a museum curator or jade connoisseur. Carved from semi-translucent yellow-green jade, the bangle was created in the 5th century, B.C., during the Warring States Period.
“This period was one of almost total mastery over the jade medium,” writes Angus Forsyth in Jade (Lorenz Books, 1995). “The pinnacle of execution achieved was such that no further innovations of technique were to be necessary until the introduction of carborundum abrasives in the 19th century AD and the electrically operated drill in the 20th century.”
Carved in low relief with a perfectly-proportioned and incredibly-detailed pattern of interlocking scrolls, this bangle was the only piece of jewelry Christie’s chose to highlight on their website before the sale. Was it worth 30 times its estimated value? You’d have to ask a collector – and there were quite a few who wanted, passionately, to possess it.
“We are thrilled once again with the excellent sale of Property from the Arthur M. Sackler Collections,” announced Deputy Chairman of Christie’s Americas Theow H. Tow, after Thursday’s sale totaled $4,005,250, tripling pre-sale expectations.
A number of “new collectors” contributed to the feverish bidding, Tow added, ending with 99 percent sold by value, 96 percent by lot, and quite a few prices way above estimates.
Top seller of the day was this large and very rare kneeling Bodhisattva, beautifully carved from limestone some time in the 10th-12th century, right down to the last detail of his foliate crown, topknot and long beaded necklace. Christie’s Chinese art specialist Christopher Engle provides more details in this podcast. Expected to bring $300,000-500,000, the Bodhisattva sold to one of those new collectors for an astonishing $914,500.