A fine Chinese export silver cutlery set in wood box
Canton, late 19th century, marked PK
L. approx. 15 cm each
Chinese export silver was produced in China from the mid-18th to mid-20th century for a largely Western audience. It was made in the European style from melted Spanish silver (historically, the only currency Chinese merchants would accept for the trading of goods, such as tea, silks and spices, out of China), and falls largely into three periods: early-, late- and post-China Trade.
In the mid-18th century, European trade with China was restricted to the port of Canton (now known as Guangzhou), which facilitated the collection of taxes on exported goods under the Qianlong Emperor, who reigned between 1735 and 1796. Although the West had been trading in Chinese silks, spices and teas for almost 150 years by this point, the market for Chinese export silver did not flourish until the 1750s, when the international trading value of silver fell dramatically.
During this pivotal moment of trade between China and the West, traditional Chinese motifs were combined with Western-inspired forms to create new, highly desirable works of art.