What Are the Most Expensive Vases in the World?
Pottery is one of the most cherished mediums in art, and one that we see often in our homes. From modern pottery to some that have lasted throughout history, there’s something about an elegant bowl, plate, or even vase.
And while most are extremely affordable, there are some expensive vases that really tell history. And the act of throwing pottery itself is even more enchanting. From shaping to firing, it’s a beautiful process to watch all your hard work turn into something useful for yourself and others.
If you want to explore some of the most exquisite pieces of pottery in history, and some of the most expensive vases, we’ll have to go back hundreds of years to the golden age of Chinese ceramics. These are some of the most expensive vases in the world.
What Makes a Vase Expensive?
Any type of art can cost a pretty penny depending on the medium, the name behind it, and the hours it took to create. While my skills are nowhere near what these examples are, I do have experience with throwing pottery. Art is a big hobby of mine and I tried almost every medium that I could throughout school. There’s something about working with clay, forming a vase or bowl with your hands, and watching it solidify after it is fired in the kiln.
Between the hard work people put in, the materials they use, and the designs, that all increases the price. But of course, with some potters, just the name behind the item can have a higher value. More renowned potters will have a higher value, while lesser-known names will not. And the materials used to create these vases, or even decorate them, like gold or silver, can even increase their value further.
And like with any art piece, there is a certain number of items made, so if you find an item within a collection that has only a few created, then that will push you to spending a bit more.
That all being said, you can find some very affordable pottery or ceramics, but if you want something that tells history, a story, or something elegant and high-quality, then you’ll be spending a bit more than normal.
Most Expensive Pottery Types
Some types of pottery are worth a bit more than others, and that has to do with the period when it was made. For instance, the most expensive pottery types include pottery from the Ming Dynasty, which was from 1368 through 1644 and focused on porcelain.
The Qing Dynasty from 1644 to 1911 continued the tradition of pottery with more vibrant colors, intricate patterns and innovative shapes. And then the Joseon Dynasty in Korea from 1392 to 1897 had Joseon Porcelain, which is regarded as having some of the most elegant simplicity and understated beauty.
There are several more examples here, but these are some of the topmost expensive vase and pottery types.
Are Vases a Good Investment?
Are you trying to look for your next investment when it comes to collecting? While collecting vintage and antique bowls, plates, China, and more is usually a great hobby, mostly because these items can be passed down from generation to generation with amazing stories, some might wonder if you can get anything worthwhile out of this venture.
Surprisingly, if you come across vases with amazing historical value, are in great condition, and have an interesting design, you’re more than likely going to get a great investment out of it.
For instance, vases from the 14th and 15th centuries during the Ming Dynasty tend to come up with an amazingly high price tag. If you understand the historical significance of vases, then you can get a great investment.
Most Expensive Vases in the World
15. Chinese Yellow Famille-Rose Anbaxian Sgraffiato Vase, $6.6 Million
One of the first entries on the most expensive vases in the world goes to this large oval ceramic that showcases the Famille-Rose pastel colors and stylized flower design pattern. The piece has a long neck and flared mouth with dragon-shaped handles painted gold.
Experts believe this piece was made for a special occasion, like a birthday. While Alberto Pasini, an Italian Orientalist painter, was the first to grab it on his travels in the 19th century, it eventually came to Sotheby’s Hong Kong where it was sold in 2015 for a high price of over $6 million, one of the most expensive vases around.
14. Chinese Yellow Ground Yangcai Vase, $7.3 Million
Another one of the most expensive vases is this pear-shaped ceramic produced for the court of the Qianlong Emperor, with a narrow neck and flared top above a globe body. The vase is painted with highly stylized flowers and features enameling around the neck, base and mouth.
A woman first bought the vase in a yard sale, believing it to be a replica, but when evaluated by experts, sold it through Brunk’s Auctions, which was then given to Sotheby’s Hong Kong to be sold again in 2014 for over $7 million.
13. Chinese Wanshou Blue and White Vase $8.3 Million
The next most expensive vase comes from Christie’s, one of the best auction houses to look to when thinking about the best additions to your collection. The vase sold in 2013 for over $8 million, a staggering amount for a piece of pottery.
This large, and extremely rare, blue and white Wanshou, or 10,000-character, vase dates to the Kangzi Period from 1662 to 1722. Experts believe this piece of pottery was made for the Jiajing Emperor of this period who was obsessed with the idea of immortality.
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12. The Harry Garner Reticulated Vase, $9.75 Million
A vase crafted by royal potters for the Qianlong Emperor, this Harry Garner Reticulated vase is one of very few ever made, making it one of the most expensive vases in the world.
The double-walled vase is a design that was extremely technically challenging and consists of a blue and white core surrounded by a celadon-green ceramic lattice, ornate enamel work and gold accents. Harry Garner, a Chinese art collector in the 1950s, owned this vase before it was sold in 1954 by Sotheby’s.
The next owner valued the vase and realized its rarity, and thus sold it to Sotheby’s in Hong Kong for it to be sold once again in 2020 for over $9 million.
11. Chinese Robin’s Egg and Famille-Rose Revolving Vase $8.95 Million
This revolving vase is made in three parts and fitted together perfectly so that the body can turn on its base using a mechanical mechanism, making for a brilliant robin’s egg blue and Famille-Rose vase.
Made by the royal potteries for Qianlong Emperor who loved mechanical toys and decorations, this vase has a speckled turquoise and purple glaze, however, the neck and base are made of ruby porcelain and styled with flowers and accented enamel.
10. Chinese Yongzheng Blue and White Garlic Mouth Vase, $9.8 Million
Bonhams is one of the many auction houses that can help you find the best additions to your collections, and ceramics and pottery are just one of the many examples. This blue and white vase was sold in Hong Kong for over $9 million, making it one of the most expensive vases in the world currently.
The only other known example is in the Palace Museum, Beijing from the Qing Court Collection, which encapsulates the finest of imperial Yongzheng period porcelain. This period was clearly a peak of innovations in form and refinement.
9. Chinese Copper Red Ming Dynasty Vase, $10.13 Million
During my time working on pottery, I never worked with the kind of colors you see on this list. I enjoyed earthy tones, as it really did work with every room and setting. This copper red vase is one that is beautiful to me, and one I would opt to collect.
This vase dates to the Ming Dynasty and is one of the only ceramics left with this glaze, as most of the others are damaged. A Scottish couple inherited this vase and used it as a lamp, and eventually gave it to Christie’s Hong Kong when they saw a similar vase in a museum.
8. The Taber Family Tianquiping Vase, $16.7 Million
Another item featured at Christie’s is this gorgeous example of pottery from the reign of the Qianlong Emperor. It sits at a price point of $16.7 million.
This multi-color Chinese vase “tianquiping”, also known as the heavenly globe vase, is made with highly technical and skilled art which requires multiple kiln firing. This vase is decorated with flowers, making for a beautifully colorful vase.
7. The Yongzheng Emperor’s Double Dragon Amphora, $18.13 Million
This amphora is one of the masterpieces of Qing Imperial ceramics and is a testament to the ingenuity of the Yongzheng-period ceramicists, according to Pola Antebi, the International Director of Chinese Works of Art Christie’s.
This large and extremely rare celadon-glazed amphora set a world record at Christie’s in 2004 by selling at a steep price of $18 million, one of the biggest stand-alone sales for a Chinese monochrome porcelain. The vase is said to be inspired by the 8th-century Tang Dynasty prototype and features two dragons for handles flanking a bamboo-form neck.
6. Chinese Yangcai Famille-Rose Porcelain Vase, $19 Million
#AuctionUpdate A 16,2 millions €, le vase Qianlong devient le record absolu pour une œuvre vendue chez Sotheby’s Paris et le record pour une porcelaine chinoise vendue en France #SothebysAsianArts pic.twitter.com/iSm16Z1yFq— Sotheby's France (@SothebysFr) June 12, 2018
It’s crazy to think about the stories behind finding these amazing antiques, as most are just happenstance. For instance, the French owners of this rare Qing Dynasty vase, one of the most valuable periods for pottery in history, found this vase stored in a shoebox due to their grandparents’ uncle not liking the design and leaving it in the attic, thus eventually giving it to the grandparents, and then in turn gave it to the current owners.
But in 2018, the owners took it to Sotheby’s in Pairs, only to find that it’s one of the most valuable and expensive vases, made in the 18th century during the reign of the Qianlong Emperor, and is rare Famille-Rose porcelain. Most of these kinds of ceramics are currently residing in a museum, making this a wonderful find for pottery collectors.
5. Chinese Famille-Rose Butterfly Double-Guard Vase Pair, $19.44 Million
Christie’s auction house in London has several amazing items for collectors, and vases and pottery are just one of the many examples.
This extremely rare and valuable Famille-Rose double-guard vases was made for the 18th-century Qianlong Court, and only four other single vases of this kind have appeared on the market so far, making this one of the most rare and expensive vases in the world.
It’s a gorgeous set, decorated with beautiful flowers such as peonies, roses and asters. An English woman from a noble family purchased these two in the 1930s, and while they’ve been passed down through the family, the recent owner sold them at Christie’s auction in 2017 for a whopping $19 million.
4. Chinese Ming Dynasty Meiping Vase, $22.6 Million
ABC brings us the next most expensive vase from 2011. A 500-year-old Chinese vase was sold in Hong Kong for over $22 million, one of the most staggering prices when it comes to pottery.
It was an anonymous telephone bidder who bought the 15th-century imperial case by Sotheby’s auction house, more than double the lower pre-sale estimates of about $10.7 million.
3. Chinese Painted Enamel and Bronze Qing Dynasty Vase, $$24.7 Million
One of the most expensive vases in the world was sold at a Boston auction house for over $24 million. This ceramic is an 18th-century vase made of painted enamel and bronze and stands close to three feet tall.
The history behind this vase, according to Chinese Antiques, is that it’s believed to be commissioned by the Qianlong Emperor, an important historical and political figure in China. While the vase is damaged with cracks and plenty of scratches, it’s still culturally significant and rare, creating such a high price tag. The price is one of the highest ever in the U.S. for a ceramic from the Qing Dynasty.
2. Chinese Jiqingyouyu Reticulated Vase, $26.9 Million
What’s disappointing about this vase is that it was almost the winner for most expensive vase in the world, however, the deal never officially went through. This beautiful piece of craftsmanship was found in 2010 by Gene Johnson and her son who were cleaning out the London house of Gene’s late sister.
When taken to Bainbridges Auction House, the experts dated this piece to the mid to late 18th century Qing Dynasty, one of the most valuable periods for pottery.
In November of 2010, a private buyer bought the vase for $46.4 million, but when the payment never went through, the deal fell, and another buyer purchased it for $26.9 million two years later.
1. Chinese Imperial Phoenix Revolving Vase, $41.6 Million
The number one spot for most expensive vase goes to the Chinese Imperial Revolving vase that sold at the Beijing Auction for over $40 million. This vase dates back to the 18th century and was auctioned in 2021, setting a new record for the most expensive vase.
The Value talks about the vase’s “intriguing mechanism and superb craftsmanship” which made its auction debut in 1999 at Christie’s London where it received its first buyer for only $537,030. The vase is said to be made in the 18th-century Qianlong period, between 1736 to 1795.
Pottery is an amazing hobby, and collecting pottery is even more worthwhile because depending on your interests, you could make a decent investment. Whether you’re looking for historical value in the pottery you find, or you’re just trying to find the latest trends, you could snag up some amazing ceramics.
If you’re looking for the most expensive vases, you’ll definitely want to start several years back and learn about history, as pieces dating back to the Qing Dynasty have some of the highest value when it comes to pottery and ceramics.
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