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Subject:Old Cinnabar Lacquer
Posted By: Mike Fri, May 09, 2008 IP:

I am interested in determining the differences between authentic cinnabar lacquer and the molded or plastic reproductions. How can one tell. If there are white chips or flakes does that mean that it is not cinnabar? If it is a bright red does that mean that it is a modern piece? What about cracks? Does that mean that it is very old? Any help would be appreciated.
thank you

Subject:Re: Old Cinnabar Lacquer
Posted By: Moyra & Doug Sat, May 10, 2008

Hi Mike.

Yes, that large CHUN box (SPRING character) currently on eBay is a modern plastic reproduction. We told the seller what it was, but the seller would rather plead ignorance and sell the piece. Six bidders so far - all of them haven't got a clue what they are looking at.

It is actually a copy of a well known Qianlong piece in the National Palace Museum. Get a copy of the book "Masterpieces of Chinese Carved Lacquer in the National Palace Museum". In addition to being a terrific period piece guide, many of these pieces were reproduced and sold by the museum in their gift shop. They are realistic copies, but you can readily identify them in this book. Some of these copies are being doctored by fakers by adding black and red lacquer overlays and fake reign marks. Disgusting.

Real carved lacquer pieces may sometimes show white under chipped lacquer - but that is a chalky substrate over cloth. A base coat of substrate is what the lacquer adheres to.

Cracks are common in lacquer. The older the piece, the more likely there will be cracks. No cracks is a big warning flag. A good seller will show close ups of any cracks, because it shows how the piece is constructed and authenticates it.

As far as color goes, usually older pieces have faded from brighter red to dark orangish brown. But be careful. Digital cameras are sensitive to red, and photos often appear redder than they really are - especially if a flash or strong lighting is used.

Best way to familiarize yourself with Cinnabar lacquer is to purchase a few real but inexpensive pieces and study them. For less than $40, you can find real export pieces on eBay all the time. They are usually square boxes with rough carving painted CHINA on the bottom.

Good luck.

Moyra & Doug

Subject:Re: Old Cinnabar Lacquer
Posted By: Mike Thu, May 15, 2008

thanks so much for your informed comments. I can't believe someone would pay $4600 for a plastic copy. Won't they be surprised !!

Subject:Re: (NOT) Old Cinnabar Lacquer
Posted By: gman Thu, May 15, 2008

Hi Mike,

It is good that you can't believe someone would pay $4600 for the item.
Nor should you believe it, especially from eBay.

If I put an item up for bid, how would you, or anyone else be able to tell who is bidding on it?
Or whether anyone is bidding on it?

You can't.

And no, just because it says there are XX amount of bids, totaling XX amount of dollars, only means that it is possible that someone bid something ($5 ?), and from there it is a safe bet that the dealer has signed in with several different email addys to place fictitious bids and sucker someone into thinking that there are people battling it out for this priceless artifact!

It would actually be pretty funny to see these things over and over if it were not that a lot of innocent people get suckered into buying junk.

Probably 99% of anything listed as ivory or cinnabar on eBay is plastic.

Happy Hunting

Subject:Re: (NOT) Old Cinnabar Lacquer
Posted By: Doug and Moyra Tue, Jul 01, 2008


Seem like the winner got smart (or was slapped around by someone who knew better) and decided not to shell out $4,600 for this chunk of plastic. The seller, turning a blind eye to the truth and hoping for a windfall, is posting it as authentic yet again, and people are bidding once more.

Folks, the CHUN BOX IS A FAKE!!!

Any bets as to how how high it will go this time? :)


Doug and Moyra

Subject:How do you clean old Cinnabar
Posted By: James Sun, Jul 27, 2008

Some of you seem really knowledgeable about old Cinnabar. I just bought a fine old cinnabar plate and it really could use a bath!! Is there a way I can safely clean cinnabar? Soap and water maybe?

Subject:Re: How do you clean old Cinnabar
Posted By: Doug and Moyra Sat, Aug 02, 2008

James -

The easiest way to clean carved lacquer is with a sonic toothbrush and a very little bead of toothpaste. We have a Sonicare tooth brush, and it does a great job on even the most delicate carvings. Wet the brush head and use a tiny bit of toothpaste, then clean a small spot for 30-60 seconds. Dab a cotton cloth in clear water, and pat the cleaned area to pick up the dirt and toothpaste residue. Don't let any water seep into any cracked lacquer areas as it can get under the lacquer and lift it. Work the piece one small area at a time until you clean the whole surface. You can then apply a very, very light coating of Kramers's Antique restorer to recondition the lacquer by adding back natural wood essential oils that have evaporated over the years. We have used this on many carved lacquer pieces, including very old Yongzheng pieces, and it works very well.

Doug & Moyra

Subject:Re: How do you clean old Cinnabar
Posted By: Moyra and Doug Thu, Aug 21, 2008

A fitting conclusion to this thread - if anyone's been following it.

The seller was NARU'd by eBay. Why? Who knows...
We will never know if the buyer got his $3,000 back for this plastic junk...

Lesson to everyone - you are NEVER going to be able to buy a $500,000 Imperial Qianlong CHUN box on eBay for $3,000!


Subject:Re: How do you clean old Cinnabar
Posted By: Jenifer Moscone Mon, Jun 15, 2009

Where can I find Kramer's antique restorer? Also,is it ok to use a soft toothbrush head with a bit of toothpaste? Thanks, Jenifer

Subject:Re: Old Cinnabar Lacquer..poison to wear?
Posted By: Hilda hayson Fri, Oct 11, 2019

I bought a necklace that appears to be old carved Cinnebar beads, sterling clasp and accents of a few enamel cloisene beads. They haveall the characterists of genuine vintage beads and I found them here in Hawaii. . While researching cleaning them i discoverd Cinnebar is a poison mercury compound. I thought Cinnebar jewelry was red because of red dye from cochineal source. 1. Was this kind of lacquer carved jred jewelry really dyed with mercury containg Cinnebar mineral? 2. Is it poisious to wear? 3. How can i test the beads to see if they contain mercury or a red substitute was added. To the lacquer. I cant upload pics they were too large for your system because i am using my iPad. Thank you in advance. Hilda | Associations | Articles | Exhibitions | Galleries |