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The Most Valuable Antique Dishes in the World

Antique dishes are highly prized by collectors for their beauty, craftsmanship, and historical significance. The most valuable pieces can sell for millions of dollars at auction. In this article, we‘ll explore some of the rarest and most expensive antique dishes ever sold, and share expert tips on collecting these precious objects.

Porcelain Masterpieces from China

Chinese porcelain is renowned for its delicacy, vibrant colors, and intricate designs. The finest examples were made for the imperial court during the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) and Qing dynasty (1644-1912).

One of the most valuable Chinese porcelain items is the Qing Dynasty Porcelain Vase from the 18th century. This exquisite piece is made of hard paste and high-quality bone ash china, giving it a luminous white color. It stands at 40 cm tall and is decorated with fish and flowers in rich cobalt blue. In 2010, this vase sold for an astonishing $84 million at auction, setting a world record price for any Chinese work of art.

Another highly prized type of Chinese porcelain is Ru ware from the Northern Song dynasty (960-1127). Ru ware is known for its subtle blue-green glaze and crackle pattern. Only around 100 pieces of Ru ware survive today, making them exceptionally rare. In 2017, a Ru Guanyao brush washer bowl sold for $37.7 million at Sotheby‘s Hong Kong, the highest price ever paid for a Song dynasty ceramic.

"Porcelain production in China reached its pinnacle during the Ming and Qing dynasties. The technical perfection and artistic brilliance achieved by potters in this period has never been surpassed." – Liu Xinyuan, Asian art expert at Sotheby‘s

Other valuable types of Chinese porcelain include:

  • Doucai porcelain from the Chenghua period (1465-1487) – known for its delicate designs combining underglaze blue with overglaze enamels
  • Famille rose porcelain from the Yongzheng period (1723-1735) – features a palette of soft pinks, yellows, and greens
  • Linglong or "magic‘ porcelain from the Kangxi period (1661-1722) – made by carving intricate patterns that are only visible when held up to light

European Silverware Fit for Royalty

European silver reached its peak in the 18th century, with master silversmiths creating ornate objects for the dining tables of the aristocracy. The most sought-after pieces were made in England and France.

The Germain Soup Tureen is considered the "holy grail" of French silver. This massive oval tureen was created in 1733 by the renowned Parisian silversmith Thomas Germain for King Louis XV of France. Weighing an impressive 13 kg, the tureen is lavishly decorated with seashells, waves, and military motifs. It is one of the only surviving pieces from the silver collection of Louis XV, as most of the royal silver was melted down during the French Revolution to help finance the war. In 1996, the Germain Soup Tureen sold at Sotheby‘s for $10 million, a record price for any piece of silver.

"The Germain Soup Tureen represents the apogee of the Rococo style in silver. The fluid, sculptural forms, and detailed embellishments exemplify the opulence of the French court." – Jeffrey Munger, Curator of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts at The Met

In England, the top silversmith of the 18th century was Paul de Lamerie. Born in the Netherlands, de Lamerie moved to London as a young man and became a master of the Rococo style. His pieces are characterized by flowing curves, asymmetry, and lively figurative scenes. In 2013, a George II silver coffee pot made by de Lamerie in 1738 sold for $7 million, at the time a record for any English silver object. The pot‘s elaborate decoration includes a swan-neck spout, acanthus-capped scroll handle, and chased scenes of birds and flora.

Other highly collectible European silversmiths include:

  • Meissen Porcelain Manufactory – the first European hard-paste porcelain, featuring intricate hand-painted designs
  • Sèvres Porcelain Manufactory – the premier French porcelain factory, known for its deep blue lapis color
  • Wedgwood – English fine china featuring decorative elements from classical antiquity

Antique Glassware that Glistens

The art of glassmaking reached new heights in Europe during the Renaissance and Baroque periods. Venice in particular was famed for its cristallo glass, known for its clarity and thinness. Glassmakers created elaborate decorative objects like goblets, bowls, and mirror frames prized by the elite.

One of the most valuable examples of antique glassware is the early 4th century Constable-Maxwell Cage Cup. This Roman glass cup is an astounding work of artistry, with the inner blue glass vessel surrounded by an ornate cage of circular wheels. The caged cup is carved from a single piece of glass. It‘s miraculous the delicate cup has survived intact for over 1600 years. In 2004 the Constable-Maxwell Cage Cup sold at Bonhams for $3.3 million, setting a world record for an antique glass object at auction.

Other rare types of antique glass include:

  • Venetian dragon-stem goblets – feature a dragon wrapped around the stem, made in Venice in the 16th-17th centuries
  • Bohemian engraved glass – intricately engraved clear glass made in the Czech Republic in the 17th-18th centuries
  • New England free-blown glass – made by early American glassmakers in the 18th-19th centuries, often in jewel tones with applied decorations

Tips for Collecting Antique Dishes

Whether you‘re interested in porcelain, silver, or glass, collecting antique dishes can be a rewarding hobby. Here are some tips to get you started:

  1. Educate yourself – Learn about different types of antique dishes, makers‘ marks, and styles. Read books, visit museums, and talk to experts.
  2. Check condition – Antique dishes in mint condition are the most valuable. Look out for chips, cracks, repairs, or signs of wear.
  3. Consider rarity – Rarer pieces like Chinese Ru ware or Russian imperial porcelain command higher prices than mass-produced items.
  4. Understand provenance – Dishes with a documented history of notable ownership can be worth substantially more than comparable pieces. Always ask for provenance records.
  5. Get an appraisal – If you are considering a major purchase, have the item authenticated and appraised by a qualified expert to determine its value.
  6. Buy from reputable dealers – Choose established dealers who specialize in antique dishes and offer a guarantee of authenticity. Avoid fakes or reproductions.

"Collecting antique dishes is a wonderful way to own a piece of history. Every plate or bowl has a story to tell about the society and culture in which it was made. As you build your collection, you gain a greater appreciation for the artistry and skill of the craftsmen from centuries past." – Charlotte Boland, Director of the French Porcelain Society


From Chinese imperial porcelain to French Rococo silver, antique dishes represent the pinnacle of artistic achievement in ceramics, metalwork, and glass. The most valuable pieces are defined by their age, rarity, quality, and provenance. While few of us can afford an $80 million Ming vase, antique dishes at all price points have timeless beauty and historical significance. By following expert tips, new collectors can find authentic, meaningful pieces to cherish for generations. Antique dishes are a true feast for the eyes and the soul.