Treasure: Chinese vase not as old as it appears to be

Kristi Zimmeth

‘This beautiful vase belonged to my mother, who passed in 2004,” wrote Karlann Hudson of Farmington Hills in a letter to the column recently, hoping to find out more about the piece. Beautifully painted and commanding in size, the vase measures 16 inches tall and 61/2 inches deep and is made of porcelain. Painted with images and gilding on a field of green leaves with borders and other decoration, it’s divided into four quadrants that include florals and birds and florals and butterflies. A circular crown over the top of the quadrants is also made up of floral and butterflies, according to Hudson’s original letter requesting an appraisal and more information.

DuMouchelle’s appraiser Bob DuMouchelle took a closer look at a recent appraisal day held at the downtown Detroit galleries and auction house of the same name, where Hudson gave him a little more firsthand information about both her mother and the piece in question.

“My mother was Ann Greene, who lived in New York City, was a choreographer and taught dance,” she told the appraiser. “This is one of the items she passed down to me. “It was one of her favorite heirlooms.”

Unfortunately, the piece has a large hole in the bottom, said DuMouchelle, and is marked in red with the words “Decorated in Hong Kong,” both negative features.

“They usually drill them to make them into lamps,” the appraiser said, turning over the piece and pointing out the damage to the bottom. “It happened a lot, and was done if something needed rewiring.”

Drilling is usually a problem for vintage pieces, he said. “You can’t undrill them once it’s done,” he told Hudson. “Once it’s drilled, it’s best used as a lamp and is useless for flowers unless they’re dried, I guess,” he said. “As a vase, it loses its effectiveness.”

The words “Decorated in Hong Kong” is also a negative, he said. “I really wish that I could tell you this is an ancient piece, but those words – written in English — indicate that it was done for export and meant to be shipped to the U.S. or Great Britain.”

Because of all of these clues, he dated the vase to the mid-20th century, probably somewhere between 1930 and 1950, and gave it a modest value of $100 at best.

He did praise the colors and the painting, despite its relative newness. “It’s very pretty, and it would be salable in the United States, but not internationally,” he said. “The Chinese are trying to buy back the better pieces that they made for themselves that were taken out of the country, but this was always intended to leave and isn’t as popular.”

Hudson didn’t change her mind about the vase’s attractiveness even after hearing the news. “I think it’s beautiful,” she told DuMouchelle.

Do you have an object you would like to know more about? Send a photo and description that includes how you acquired the object to: The Detroit News, Trash or Treasure?, 160 W. Fort St., Detroit, MI 48226. Include your name and daytime telephone number. You may also send your photo and description to If chosen you’ll need to bring the items to an appraisal session. Photos cannot be returned.

About this item

Item : Chinese vase

Owner : Karlann and Charles Hudson, Farmington Hills

Value : Approximately $100 at auction

Appraised by : Bob DuMouchelle, DuMouchelle’s