An exceedingly rare, ancient Chinese Eastern Han Dynasty solid nephrite jade bear, made between 475 B.C.-220 A.D. and exhibiting extensive calcification due to centuries of extended burial, sold for a little more than $8 million at a multi-estate auction held Dec. 10 by Florida’s Elite Decorative Arts.
The nephrite (greenstone) bear was by far the top lot of the nearly 300 items that changed hands in an auction that grossed around $9 million. But the bear was also a bargain for the buyer who wished not to be identified — it carried a pre-sale estimate of $10 million-$20 million. Such numbers have become commonplace for Chinese antiquities, which are now red hot collectibles.
A combination of factors contributed to the bear’s desirability. It was the largest jade sculpture known of its time. It was made for a significant figure or ruler, with whom it had been buried. The cup-shaped opening at the top of the head meant it was made for a stand or base for a significant object. And it came with impeccable credentials from a Beijing authenticating firm.
“This is the second item we’ve sold for more than $1 million. No other auction house in Florida can say that,” said Chris Hayes of Elite Decorative Arts, adding, “This sale did as we’d hoped, which was quite well. Prices were high and 80 percent of the lots sold.” About 120 people came to bid in person, while over 650 bidders registered online.