When thinking of glass objects, one of the last places to think of is China. This is partially due to the sheer volume that has been produced elsewhere in the world, combined with the fact that the Chinese are typically renowned for their production of fine porcelain and jade, amongst other things. The truth is that glassmaking in China has never been a major industry. Prior to the introduction of Western techniques and through the influences of Jesuit missionaries during the Kangxi period (1661 - 1722 AD), glass was considered second to both porcelain and jade and only used to imitate these materials at a much lower price.
Array of colours
However, during the Kangxi period a wide variety of glass was produced. Chinese overlay glass was the most popular. Many different colours were employed, usually on a white opaque ground, red being the first and then later many other colours such as blues, greens and yellows. What the Chinese did admire about glass was it's potential to resemble various precious stones and minerals. Probably one of the most recognised colours in Chinese glass is Imperial yellow bearing a very similar appearance to yellow glazed porcelain pieces produced for and used solely by the Emperor and his family.
Chinese ceramics and jade
Even though Chinese glass is not on par with Chinese ceramics or jade, pieces can still fetch considerably high values at auction. However, it is particularly difficult to decipher the age of many Chinese glass objects due to them being relatively easy to replicate and many pieces are still made by hand today. What is interesting though is that the value of a piece of Chinese glass is more often than not more determined by it's quality rather than by it's age.
If you have any Chinese works of art in general, please contact Robin Newcombe, Asian art specialist at Grand Auctions, Folkestone, Kent.