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Old 5th June 2019, 01:23 PM   #1
kronckew
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Default Chinese Ge Dagger Axe

Just aquired this from an auction here in the UK, It's a chinese warring states bronze age pole arm weapon. Comes from an old collection estate sale, so with luck not a recent copy.

Hopefully will clean up the verdegris w/o destroying the patina & I'll find it in good enough condition to mount it on a pole as it would have been. Don't recall seeing many of these here, if any. they were the pimary chinese weapon for a few centuries. Later versions incorporated a spear point to the pole and eventually to the Ge portion as one unit.
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Old 8th June 2019, 02:54 AM   #2
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Congratulations!

There are so many fakes now being made in China, I have to admit I wouldn't real from reproduction/fake. (of course not my area of research collecting.......)
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Old 8th June 2019, 10:16 AM   #3
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It's always possible this is a new repro, it's illegal to ship a real one out of china. I'd never buy it from e-pray from china, either they start at more than I can pay, or so low they must be fake. I'm especially leery of the pretty carved jade ones i've seen there with sockets instead of tangs.

Mine is coming from a reputable UK dealer who was liquidating a collection of asian artefacts from a deceased collector. That too could be a fake statement, but less likely as their rep is on the line and I know where they live. Thankfully no reserve and no one else bid. Don't think the punters knew what the heck it was. Got it for less than £50, so even if it's a fake, I'm not out much. It's cost me less than a fake would .
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Old 9th June 2019, 10:51 AM   #4
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Default Sorry the skepticism ...

Wayne, no hopes; you know very well that, the chances to get the real thing are nihil. And in such case, their sales value, whatever they ask out there, ranging from 50 to 50 000 bucks, is no authenticity reference. It might sound anecdotal but, if you the rub off the verdigris, aren't you destroying lots of the fakers work ? ... sorry the cynicism .

Speaking of their rarity, they have a vast collection of these at the Royal Ontario Museum ... hopefully authentic ones.
(My pictures ... lousy as can be),


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Old 9th June 2019, 02:20 PM   #5
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I know the chances are slim w/o a full metal composition analysis and some objective method of dating, which I can't afford,but I can dream...They said the coelacanths were extinct millions of years ago, but you can still catch one occasionally! If I knew it was a real antique from the warring states era I wouldn't brush it off. They literally made millions of them then tho, and bronze survives well, so I can fool myself into thinking a local UK Officer from the Boxer siege of Peking in 1900 brought it home as a souvenir.

The pics are great, thanks!

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Old 30th June 2019, 10:53 PM   #6
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As we all know, the marketplace for "archaic", "historic" etc bronze objects is awash with fakes -- just got through reading an old thread on lantakas on this venue, E-Prey is loaded with dodgy stuff from China, and check out the shelves full of Luristan weapons in galleries from Grey's Mews to NY' s Lower East Side...

Provenance, if reliable, helps a lot when making that decision to bid or buy. Yet in the long run, nothing beats empirical expertise in the field, and the expert technical analysis, when push comes to shove. Ontario's ROM has a landmark collection of Chinese bronzes assembled early in the last century if not before, but seeing something behind glass can be only so helpful when considering an item with a hefty market-rate price tag.

A decade a dealer colleague asked me for an opinion on an archaic Chinese bronze helmet he got from a New England estate, it was part of a late professor's collection, largely assembled during his residency in China and elsewhere after WW II. I admit to not being a bronze expert, but I agreed to examine it anyway. The form looked good, along with patina, gauge of metal, deco technique, yadda yadda. I was ready to be convinced... But knowing my limits, I got the owner's permisson to send it to a friend who specialized in antiquities. He performed a simple test to an area of patina and bingo! he found it to be as kosher as a ham sandwich.

So all my opining based on visual comparisons with published examples, and analogies applied to the surfaces of stuff I've seen from 2 feet away in museums, was all for naught.

What about the provenance? Obtained in the late '40s ir early 50s, decades before the rise of the Chinese knockoff industry, collected by an academician no less? I knew that the Chinese were reproducing archaic bronze and writing about it as far back as the Ming Dynasty, but some inquiries with the art crowd taught me that there was still some artisanal production of quality copies even into the turbulent 20th cent. and that some of this was created for presentation or gifting purposes.

This example is wandering far afield from a simple dagger-ax but I thought I'd put it out there to give an idea of the scope of the issue.

Oh, am pleased to report that my colleague got his money back out of that helmet!
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Old 1st July 2019, 08:59 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Philip
...

He performed a simple test to an area of patina and bingo! he found it to be as kosher as a ham sandwich.

...


It would be useful to know what the simple test is, so we could use it.

p.s. - mine was really cheap, tho it could indeed be (and probably is) an antique in it's own right as a 'ceremonial' copy from the 19c Qing or earlier. China prohibits the export of real antiques, but I'd bet they still get smuggled thru. Money talks.
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Old 1st July 2019, 12:10 PM   #8
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Wayne Kröncke,
Look at this pair of Palstave axes. This is an actual challenge to test authenticity. Even a certain expert, judging by the pictures, told me they were good. It took me a zillion demarches (museums and all) to end up finding out they were a fake. When one day i showed them to a well known local collector, he recognized them and told me they were the result of an attempt by some skillful guy in that, he bet he was able to reproduce his axes originals, so well that such wouldn't be noticeable.
In vain i tried to sell them with no profit;then i tried to return them to the local original seller ... with success. Mind you, he never tried to deceive me; he just sold me something he assumed not knowing what it was.


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Old 1st July 2019, 03:03 PM   #9
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Default what makes a "real" antique, and how the Chinese handle it

Quote:
Originally Posted by kronckew
It would be useful to know what the simple test is, so we could use it.

p.s. - mine was really cheap

China prohibits the export of real antiques, but I'd bet they still get smuggled thru. Money talks.


Yes, and it speaks loud and clear to the right people. The notion of what a "real antique" is often determined by the guy wearing the badge. In the 1990s, a colleague who used to do buying trips to China with his parents to buy 19th cent Qing vernacular furniture for their design gallery was hassled at the airport for a early 20th cent. blue/white porclain lady's pillow shaped like a recumbent pussycat. "That's a Song Dynasty piece!!" declared the inspector, who promptly impounded it and subjected my friend to a thorough search and grilling. [FYI the Song was a medieval dynasty preceding the Mongol era].

In the meantime, buyers were being gulled into paying hefty prices for those Tang [preceding the Song] Dynasty tricolor-glaze figurines and animals in the Beijing marketplace. They had signed and sealed test certificates from labs certifying the age of the material. Plus an export permit! A Chinese dealer whom I got to know well explained how this worked. The pieces were all newly made, expertly aged and patinaed, by craftsmen who knew the originals forwards and backwards. Part of the object (bottom of statue or foot of camel) was made from original ground up clay from an authentic fragment, and incorporated into the body in a seamless manner. The lab was tipped off as to where to take the test sample from.

There was a time, a couple of decades ago, that it was possible for an arms collector to find worthwhile stuff (helmets, swords, etc) in China and find ways to get it out. The fakes were easier to detect, and those who really studied the material could tell a good 17th-18th cent. blade from touristic or Boxer Rebellion junk. There were a few collectors in the US who built nice collections that way, using a chain of trusted "pickers" including a couple of European expats living over there. Those Wild West days are over. The faking is out of control. The last guy I had who rootled out blades for me in provincial towns, had to give up because shipping out of China became more and more problematic. The last thing he found, a rare 16th cent. falchion blade with chiseled archaistic dragons on the forte, took 3 attempts to ship -- eventually it had to go to Hong Kong and from there via post to the US. Too risky.

There were time that even pieces of some significance were given the government OK for export. A dealer in London once offered an 18th cent. Chinese saber blade of multi-row twist core pattern weld steel, further inlaid with Tibetan symbols and an inscription linking it to a monastery. I managed to buy it and on the scabbard was still affixed the official wax export seal that the government was using at the time (it later switched to an adhesive seal).
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Old 1st July 2019, 03:46 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Philip
Provenance, if reliable, helps a lot when making that decision to bid or buy. Yet in the long run, nothing beats empirical expertise in the field, and the expert technical analysis, when push comes to shove.
I think Philip is absolutely correct and that the first and primary defense against items made to deceive is having seen and handled an adequate number of known genuine artifacts in the particular field or else consulting an expert who has. Technical examination may then help when expert opinion needs to reconcile doubts.

One exciting method is XRF (X-ray fluorescence) analysis. A handheld or bench-top instrument directs a beam of X-rays at one or more wavelengths on an object and different wavelengths are in turn emitted as electrons get disturbed and a built in computer can then calculate a quantitative elemental composition. This technology is used in scrapyards for sorting alloys, in evaluating for lead paint, by precious metal dealers to determine compositions, in prospecting and, of course, in archaeology. The big advantage is that it is nondestructive as the atoms will get over the irritation and so it may be used without significantly altering the object. Significant limitations are that lighter elements are not detected and that it reports on superficial (surface) composition over a fairly large area (~1 sq cm). So a thin gold plating over base metal reads like gold. (Similar technology on scanning electron microscopes can report on tiny targets). Experts will have access, of course to many different analysis techniques but these often involve removing a significant sample besides expense.

I recently rented a handheld XRF unit and took hundreds of readings across my various collections. I have still not done the work of generating statistical reference ranges for the trace elements that may be there. (Perhaps I am afraid?) My technique was truly 'horrible' because I did not clear away rust, verdigris, wax, paint or anything else. I shot the items in multiple spots as is (nondestructive meaning nondestructive). Of course, since much of that overlying 'noise' is mostly lighter elements ignored by the technology, this was not as bad as it may seem.

Where a forger has used a modern alloy to create a fake artifact, then the scrap sorting methodology on a handheld instrument may well report the industrial designation for the alloy and your doubts about an item are unhappily resolved. However, I find that a number of items that I am confident are fakes will overlap sufficiently in elemental composition with genuine artifacts that confirmation of authenticity is not going to be reliable while condemnation will be fairly reliable.

Kronckew, you may be able to find a local business (likely in the metals scrap trade or environmental testing) who will have such a unit and may take a few readings for you for a nominal fee.

For years I have had an attractive 'bird stone' (Native American atl atl counterweight?) On the phone, I asked a specialist antique dealer of my acquaintance if he could give me an opinion as to whether it is genuine or not. Without hesitation he replied - over the phone - "It's a fake!" (This would also later be the opinion of a trained archaeologist with the object in his hand.) The point was that there are probably not more than 5,000 total of these in existence. But, kronckew, the same specialist antique dealer also has a favorite saying about the chances he takes with online purchases - "Every now and then a blind squirrel gets a nut." It just does not happen that often, but I'll hope your pole-arm head turns out to be the real deal.
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Old 1st July 2019, 04:36 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Philip
Part of the object (bottom of statue or foot of camel) was made from original ground up clay from an authentic fragment, and incorporated into the body in a seamless manner ...

Amazing;a trick similar to the one used by Amadou to circumvent TL tests, and the Kuhn ram bought at a famous auctioneer for $275 000.


...Amadou explained that he digs "holes into the clay where I can bury fragments of authentic terra cotta found at the [looted] sites ...

.

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Old 3rd July 2019, 12:30 PM   #12
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A socketed bronze form of the Ge dagger-axe, which were used later that the tanged ones just sold on a famous online e-site for a few hundred pounds UK.

Another similar one just sold on a UK Auction house real time online auction for around 12% of that
.
I'll have an easier time mounting it on a pole than the earlier one I posted.
(Yes, I bought the cheaper one)

No provenance on this one, real or not. I'll assume it is fake tho after all the above...

At least the Auction house knew what it was.
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