Things seldom are what they appear

Wait, before you read further, can you guess the price of the above 70s looking tchotchke? Go on, trust your immediate gut reaction.

At a simple glance, if most of us saw this accessory perched on a side table in a flea market stall, we may not even give it a second thought. Perhaps made of horn or resin, it looks modern and is actually a cool thing.  And if we were forced to put a price on it, perhaps we would say something under US$100, nothing too expensive.
Boy would we be wrong!!!
With an eye catching estimate of US$650,000+, this little agate bowl was offered at Sotheby’s Hong Kong on 5 October and it made me think:  how many times have I walked around a flea market looking down my nose at things that at a glance look good”ish”?  Of course, I want to think that if I actually saw something like the bowl above, I would pick it up for inspection!
Agate, like jade, is precious to the Chinese culture.  They revere agate, regarding it as containing the same five virtues as jade: “smooth, straightforward, clear-sounding, unbending and sharp”.  This little beauty also has a mark from the reign of Yongzheng which dates it back to circa 1735.  In addition, it is a piece that is technically challenging to produce as it is easy to crack agate, so for its impeccable condition, it gets an A+.
If anything, a lesson of how first impressions can be very deceptive. J
Image credit: © Sotheby’s.  Lot 1937, An Unusual Agate Oval Washer, 7.3/8 in. | 18.8 cm.  Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art, Hong Kong, 5 October 2011.