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See Latest Study: Differences Between Chinese and Japanese Cloisonne

1890-1910 Chinese Cloisonne Desk Set Millefleurs Cloisons

 Welcome to published since April 2009: 

        It is designed to answer your basic questions about Chinese and Japanese cloisonne: what is it and how old is it? These answers should help you with the value. Specifically, we will cover the identification of Oriental (Far-East) JAPANESE and CHINESE decorative, or 'free-standing' cloisonne pieces, covering the 1850 to 1950 century of production, by a visual identification method, using actual item photos, a short description and several pages of marks.

       This site is your first step in identifying your Oriental cloisonne items. If you think that what you have in hand is a rare and valuable piece of cloisonne, I would recommend you approach educated professionals in this field in your area, and have a formal appraisal done, for insurance and investment purposes. 

Personal evaluations:

    NEW URGENT REQUEST SERVICE (DEC.2013) for $8.50 done within 2 days*.

    Please email your images at AFTER a small payment of $7.25US  or other selection amount to my Paypal account linked on the last '$$$PAY' page. I will respond with an approximate 50 word long description or more, which will include dating information, country of production, a range in value, and any other available pertinent information. This will not be a formal appraisal, but will give you a first step in identifying and evaluating your Asian cloisonne item/s.

* for the urgent service, 2 days means 2 calendar days from payment date, different time zones and hour of payment are not taken into account.

IN A HURRY?:  Use the QUICK CHECK page for identifying the most common types of cloisonne pieces, vases, jars and boxes.


     In 2013, the highest prices on the market are for the best quality Chinese antique and vintage cloisonne pieces, and signed antique Japanese masterpieces, both rare, most of which are unavailable, either owned by collectors already, or displayed in museums. Some of these items, damaged, yet still appealing can be found easily enough on the internet auction sites.

     There was and is much more Chinese mass-produced cloisonne items than Japanese, 'supply and demand' dictated that Japanese cloisonne would usually fetch more. On the other hand, Chinese enamelware and cloisonne values are skyrocketing, due to China's and other Asian countries newly found interest in these old exports, as well as dealers looking for a profitable transaction.

     Most of the vintage cloisonne items found at estate sales, flea markets, the internet and live auctions are the unmarked, mass produced, Chinese and Japanese cloisonne items, exported during the first half of the 20th century, and the many post 1950s machine-made (assembly line manufacture) cloisonne pieces.   

    From 1850 to 1950, there was room for innovation and creativity by the Chinese and Japanese cloisonne craftsmen. There are still some rare, completely hand crafted, unexpected treasures available from that period, those pieces are the most sought after by the savvy cloisonne collector (including me).  

    DO NOT TRUST the vendor/owner to be accurate

     That statement may sound harsh, in light of the increasing sophistication of internet sellers regarding Oriental antique exports. Consider that there are many reasons why their information might be inaccurate. One example is the highly lucrative Chinese antique market right now, with the Chinese law that prohibits under severe penalty for any antique to be exported or shipped out of the country today, and the fact that some Chinese sellers are modifying cloisonne items to look much older than they are, or putting together parts from various pieces for a large seemingly good item.   

    Some sellers think that identifying a cloisonne piece as Chinese is a sure fire way of doing well. Even with reputable auction houses, we see a steep increase in pieces described as antique Chinese objects, when they are post 1950, or vintage Japanese. Buyer beware.   

    What is going on with Ebay prices and sellers? In the last few years Ebay has changed it's fee structure for sellers. The cost of selling on Ebay is now driven by sales only not by listings plus sales, a 10% fee is applied to the final sale price and the shipping amount paid and none is applied for listing the piece of merchandise. This is completely opposite to their approach from 1997 to 2007 when fees were directly applied to the amount of the initial listing as well as for the final sale price, but none applied to shipping dollars.

    For instance in the past, a listing for a $1.00 cost 35 cents, a listing for $100.00 cost $5.00. This explains why many items on Ebay are now sold for hundreds of dollars, many hugely overpriced. If you want to see what the value should be, go to Ebay's completed sales and check what sold and for what amount. By doing that, you will notice that most of the those overvalued pieces were ignored.

1900-1920 Japanese Cloisonne Millefleurs Desk Box

Also Available: Antique/Vintage Decorative Item Investigation

(see my 'PAID ANTIQUE RESEARCH' page for details)

Chinese Famille Rose Porcelain Plate Millefleurs 1870-1890


    Sorting out every Oriental cloisonne piece is a difficult and complex process, with many challenges and pitfalls. The available reference material (books), that should help with this venture are themselves at odds with each other sometimes. Each author/collector/researcher adding a mix of subjective and objective opinions and guesses, with other information garnered from various sources (not necessarily irrefutable), and previous author's publications on this subject.

    How can anyone else be able to correctly, and consistently identify Oriental cloisonne and date it accurately?  It's impossible. There are a few sources of data from the countries involved: China and Japan. As with most knowledge, the longer the time frame, the less reliable the second and third hand witness accounts are. While choosing to use my own judgment in some instances, you will note I don't agree with other's dating or value.

     Most of the cloisonne items produced there, were considered a secondary craft export product, designed to please Westerners, with their inferior tastes and not meant for local commerce. It was a lucrative endeavor, viewed not as an art form, nor as treasured national masterpieces, except for the short 30 plus year period of Japanese golden age cloisonne, from 1880 to 1910 or so. It is only in the last decade that Japan and China have finally taken a second look at these exports and become interested in their history, creation and value. Establishing new collections and exhibits in their own country's museums.

     Here, I have tried to combine what is known absolutely, for the very specific period of 1850 to 1950. This does leave many unanswered questions. What I am saying is that all information provided here is meant to be accurate, but may not help your particular needs. There is much more about Oriental cloisonne that is not known yet, or covered on this site. My aim is to cater to most site visitors with interesting and helpful information, for both the experienced collector and the cloisonne amateur.

Copyright 2009-2014

      Any website content that is original content as found here, is automatically protected by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. My website information is not available to be copied or used by anyone, unless I have given specific permission to do so.  I'm aware of the 'fair use' exceptions.

   As this 'free' site and it's innovative content represent much hands-on knowledge, years of research, with unique images (acquired with permission or owned by me), any type of usage by other parties devalues the site, and is not FAIR. I will be adding my site tag in the middle of cloisonne mark images, to discourage unlawful copying.