Most Valuable Antique Dishes Worth Money (Rarest Sold For $84 Million)

For passionate collectors, there are few things more exciting than discovering a truly special antique treasure. And when it comes to valuable antique dishware, the thrill of the hunt is matched only by the immense prices that the rarest pieces can command at auction.

From Ming dynasty porcelain vases to Art Deco glass services, the world of collectible antique dishes is vast and varied. But what separates the everyday dinnerware of yesteryear from museum-worthy masterpieces? In this comprehensive guide, we‘ll explore the fascinating history of antique dishes, reveal the key factors that determine their value, and showcase some of the most expensive pieces ever sold.

Whether you‘re a seasoned collector or simply appreciate the artistry and craftsmanship of fine china and silverware, read on to discover the secrets behind the world‘s most valuable antique dishes.

Types of Antique Dishware

Before we dive into the specifics of what makes certain antique dishes so valuable, it‘s helpful to understand the different categories and materials that comprise this diverse collecting field. Here are some of the main types of antique dishware you‘re likely to encounter:

Porcelain and China

Prized for its delicate appearance yet durable nature, porcelain has been the premier material for fine dishware for centuries. Porcelain is a type of ceramic that is fired at very high temperatures, resulting in a white, translucent, and vitrified product.

The terms "porcelain" and "china" are often used interchangeably, but technically china is a specific type of porcelain that originated in China. Chinese porcelain, particularly from the Ming and Qing dynasties, is among the most highly prized and valuable. But porcelain and bone china from Europe (especially England, France, and Germany) and Japan is also very collectible.

Silverware

Before stainless steel became the standard for cutlery, silver reigned supreme on the dining tables of the elite. Sterling silver (92.5% pure silver) flatware services and serving pieces from renowned makers like Tiffany & Co., Georg Jensen, and Christofle are highly sought after by collectors.

But even more valuable are the exquisite holloware pieces—such as tureens, platters, candelabras, and tea sets—made by master silversmiths. Antique silverwork often features ornate decorations, intricate engravings, and figurative elements that showcase the artisan‘s skill.

Glassware

Though more fragile than porcelain or silver, glassware can be just as collectible and valuable in the world of antique dishes. The delicate beauty of hand-blown and intricately cut glass has allured collectors for generations.

Antique glassware encompasses a wide variety of styles, from early American pressed glass to Victorian art glass to 20th-century modernist designs. Pieces from iconic makers like Tiffany, Lalique, Steuben, and Baccarat are among the most desirable and expensive.

Factors That Determine an Antique Dish‘s Value

Now that we‘ve covered the main categories of antique dishware, let‘s examine the key characteristics that make certain pieces stand out in terms of value and collectibility. Here are the primary factors to consider:

Age

As a general rule, the older an antique dish is, the more valuable it tends to be. Pieces that date back hundreds of years, especially those from significant historical periods like the Ming dynasty or Georgian era, are highly prized by collectors.

However, age alone does not guarantee value. An antique dish must also be rare, well-made, and in good condition to command top dollar. And certain 20th-century pieces, particularly those from the Art Deco and Mid-Century Modern periods, can be just as valuable as much older items.

Rarity

Scarcity is one of the biggest drivers of value in the antique dish market. Pieces that were produced in very limited quantities, or those that few examples of have survived intact over the centuries, are the most highly coveted by collectors.

Rare antique dishes might include one-of-a-kind commissioned pieces, experimental designs that never went into regular production, or items that were exclusively made for royalty or nobility. The fewer of something there is, the more competition there will be among collectors to acquire it—driving up prices.

Condition

An antique dish‘s condition is arguably just as important as its age or rarity when it comes to value. Collectors are willing to pay a premium for pieces that are in pristine original condition, with no chips, cracks, or repairs.

Wear and tear is to be expected with antique items, but damage and restoration can significantly decrease an object‘s value. The most desirable pieces will have minimal signs of use and their original manufacturer‘s markings or labels still intact.

Quality of Materials and Craftsmanship

The skill of the artisan and the materials they used can also have a huge impact on an antique dish‘s value. Collectors place a high value on pieces that demonstrate exceptional craftsmanship and artistry, with finely detailed decorations, gilding, enamelwork, or figurative elements.

In terms of materials, porcelain made with the highest-quality clay and glassware featuring intricate cutting or engraving will be more valuable than simpler pieces. With silver, the purity of the metal and the intricacy of the design are important factors.

Historical Significance and Provenance

An antique dish‘s history and provenance (record of ownership) can also play a major role in its value. Pieces that can be traced back to important historical figures, royalty, or celebrities will have an added element of desirability for collectors.

Items that were created for significant events or commissioned by noteworthy individuals often come with documentation that attests to their provenance. This can take the form of bills of sale, letters, photographs, or other records that provide insight into an object‘s unique history.

Examples of the Most Valuable Antique Dishes Ever Sold

Now that we‘ve covered the key factors that influence an antique dish‘s value, let‘s take a look at some of the most expensive pieces ever sold at auction. These museum-quality items represent the pinnacle of rarity, craftsmanship, and historical significance in the world of antique dishware.

1. Qing Dynasty Porcelain Vase – $84 Million

[Image] Topping the list is this exquisite porcelain vase from the Qing dynasty, which sold for an astonishing $84 million at a Sotheby‘s auction in Hong Kong in 2014. The vase dates back to the 18th century and is believed to have been made for the Qianlong Emperor. It features intricate gold and silver designs on a rich blue background, demonstrating the height of Chinese porcelain craftsmanship.

2. Ming Dynasty "Chicken Cup" – $36 Million

[Image] This tiny porcelain cup, measuring just 3 inches in diameter, fetched a whopping $36 million at a Sotheby‘s auction in 2014. The cup dates back to the Ming dynasty‘s Chenghua period (1465-1487) and features a delicate painting of a rooster, hen, and chicks. Only 17 examples of this design are known to exist, making it one of the rarest and most valuable pieces of Chinese porcelain.

3. Germain Soup Tureen – $10 Million

[Image] This stunning silver soup tureen was created by the renowned French silversmith Thomas Germain in 1733. It was made for the royal court of King Louis XV and is considered one of the finest examples of Rococo silverwork. The tureen sold for $10 million at a Sotheby‘s auction in 1996, setting a record for the most expensive piece of silver ever auctioned.

4. Meissen "Swan Service" – $5.6 Million

[Image] The Meissen porcelain factory in Germany has been producing some of the world‘s finest china since the early 18th century. This massive 2,200-piece service, known as the "Swan Service," was commissioned by the German statesman Heinrich von Brühl in 1737. It features elaborate decorations of swans, nymphs, and floral designs, all rendered in exquisite detail. A portion of the original service sold for $5.6 million at a Christie‘s auction in 2000.

5. Joseon Dynasty White Porcelain Jar – $4.2 Million

[Image] This understated white porcelain jar from Korea‘s Joseon dynasty (1392-1910) may look simple compared to the ornate pieces above, but it still commanded a price of $4.2 million at auction in 2019. The jar‘s value lies in its age (dating back to the 18th century), rarity, and the skill demonstrated in its graceful form and pure white glaze.

Tips for Identifying and Valuing Antique Dishes

If you‘re interested in starting your own collection of valuable antique dishes, or if you think you may have a treasure hiding in your cupboards, here are some tips for identifying and appraising your pieces:

  1. Look for maker‘s marks, hallmarks, or stamps on the underside of the dish. These can help you identify the manufacturer, country of origin, and approximate age of the piece.

  2. Research the specific patterns, styles, and designs that were popular during different historical periods. This can help you date your piece and determine its rarity.

  3. Carefully examine the dish‘s condition, looking for any chips, cracks, crazing, or signs of repair. The fewer flaws, the more valuable the piece will be.

  4. Consult antique dish price guides, collector‘s books, and online resources to get a sense of what similar pieces have sold for in the past. But remember that these are just estimates and actual values can vary widely based on current market conditions.

  5. If you believe you have a particularly rare or valuable antique dish, consider getting a professional appraisal from a reputable antiques dealer or auction house specialist. They will be able to give you a more accurate estimate of your piece‘s worth.

Where to Buy and Sell Valuable Antique Dishes

Whether you‘re looking to add to your collection or cash in on a valuable piece, there are several options for buying and selling antique dishes:

  1. Auction houses like Sotheby‘s, Christie‘s, and Bonhams are the go-to destinations for the most high-end antique dishware. These venerable institutions hold regular sales dedicated to porcelain, silver, and glass, and often set records with their top lots.

  2. Antique shops and dealers that specialize in dishes and china are another great resource for collectors. You can find these stores in most major cities, and many also have online inventories you can browse from home.

  3. Online marketplaces like eBay, Etsy, and 1stDibs have made it easier than ever to buy and sell antique dishes. These sites offer a wide selection at various price points, but be sure to do your due diligence on any seller before making a purchase.

  4. Estate sales, yard sales, and thrift stores can also be great places to hunt for hidden antique dish treasures. While you‘ll have to sort through a lot of less valuable items, the thrill of finding a diamond in the rough is part of what makes collecting so exciting.

Frequently Asked Questions About Antique Dishes

Q: How can I tell if a dish is really antique or just a reproduction?
A: Look for signs of age like crazing (fine cracks in the glaze), patina on metal pieces, and wear on the bottom of the dish. Antique dishes should also have construction techniques and materials appropriate to their era. If a piece looks too new or perfect, it may be a reproduction.

Q: Are all old dishes valuable?
A: No, not all antique dishes are valuable from a collecting standpoint. The value depends on factors like rarity, craftsmanship, condition, and provenance. Mass-produced dishes or those with significant damage will be less desirable to collectors.

Q: How should I care for my antique dishes?
A: Handle antique dishes carefully, supporting them from the base when lifting. Avoid using them for food service unless you‘re certain they don‘t contain lead or other harmful materials. Display them in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight, and dust them regularly with a soft, lint-free cloth. Consult a professional restorer if any repairs are needed.

Conclusion

Antique dishes offer a fascinating window into the history of craftsmanship, design, and luxury goods. From the royal courts of Europe to the imperial kilns of China, these exquisite objects have captivated collectors for centuries with their beauty, rarity, and storied pasts.

Whether you‘re drawn to the delicate florals of Meissen porcelain, the ornate embellishments of Rococo silver, or the refined simplicity of Chinese monochrome glazes, there is an antique dish out there to suit every taste and budget. By learning to recognize the key characteristics that determine value and rarity, you can build a collection that is both personally meaningful and potentially lucrative.

So the next time you spot a mysterious old plate or teacup at a flea market or estate sale, take a closer look—you may just discover a treasure that connects you to a rich legacy of artistry and history. And who knows? With a keen eye and a bit of luck, you might even unearth the next record-breaking multimillion-dollar masterpiece.

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