Wooley & Wallis Rides Jade to a Record

Ring the (jade) bell! The Wooley & Wallis auction house scored £8.8 million ($12.7 million) in sales at its two-day Asian art auction last week, helped along by the strong showing of an imperial jade bell, which earned £2.46 million ($3.5 million), considerably more than its £200–300,000 estimate ($290–430,000). The total showing was a new record for an auction at a regional house, with 83 percent of the 1,013 lots finding buyers.

Immediately following the sale of the pricey bell, a set of Qing-era elephants from the throne-room of the Chinese emperor Qianglong (whose snuff box is set to be sold at Bonhams later this week) made £1.23 million ($1.77 million) on an estimate of £200–300,000 ($290–430,000). A jade boulder-carving also attracted aggressive bidders, who sent the work to a hammer price of £490,000 ($706,000).

The new owner of the boulder-carving also takes home a poem inscribed on the side, which reads in part: “When water runs through stones / The water becomes cold.” However, when jade enters English auction rooms, they become hot. Earlier this month, Bonhams vaulted to a £6.6 million ($9.8 million) finish in its single day, 456-lot Asian art auction, the latest in a series of auctions that have seen jade objects attract big numbers.

Click the photo gallery at left to see lots from the auction.