Treasures: Cherished Vase Likely Arrived to US During WWI

The painting on this vase is extravagant, but the wear to the gilding will reduce its value.

The painting on this vase is extravagant, but the wear to the gilding will reduce its value.

Dear Helaine and Joe:

I received this beautiful vase from my dear sweet aunt Martha. It has been in the family for a long time and she received it from her mother’s cousin, Aunt Mary. I treasure this beautiful vase and would like to know if you could shed some light on this piece for me.

Thank you,

B. J. F., Naples, Fla.

Dear B. J. F.:

We love that this vase is important to its present owner, not just because she perceives it as being beautiful, but because it reminds her of her “dear sweet” aunt Martha and her “Aunt Mary.” This is one of the best reasons for cherishing objects from the past, because they are tangible memories of those we hold dear.

We would not be able to help B. J. F. if she had not included a fairly clear photograph of the mark found on the piece. It is a globe with the word “Royal” above and “Nippon” below with a ribbon running across the globe reading “Nishiki.”

This is the well-known mark of a company whose overall history we could not discover. But the information we did find suggests the company began making ceramics about 1906. This means the object belonging to B. J. F. was made sometime between 1906 and 1921 (the 1921 date is known because that is when the designation “Nippon” stopped being used on Japanese wares exported to the West).

We question most of the other information printed on this company because the sources all report the globe mark was used on wares meant for Japanese domestic consumption, and we have problems with this. First, to the best of our knowledge, the word “Nippon” was only used on wares meant for foreign use, and second, the design is not one that would appeal to the Japanese penchant for restraint.

The word “Nishiki” emblazoned across the globe refers to “brocade,” which is not a reference to the kind of cloth that comes to Western minds when this word is mentioned. Instead, it is used in the Japanese sense and references a mass of brilliant colors.

Wares marked “Nippon” were very popular in collecting circles for many, many years, but unfortunately in recent times they have fallen from favor somewhat. The vase in today’s question looks to us to have been made near the end of the Nippon era (1891-1921) because its looks similar – at least to us – to the later Satsuma wares exported to this country in the 1920s and ’30s.

We feel this vase is probably circa-1915 and probably came to our shores while Europe was embroiled in World War I. This cataclysmic event largely curtailed European porcelain exports to North America and Japanese products often filled the void.

Even though B. J. F. does not ask about value, we should probably address the issue because it will interest many others. We have no idea how tall this piece is and its height or lack thereof will affect the value, but we do see extensive wear to the gold that will negatively impact the monetary worth, which should be in the $125 to $175 range.