May 21, 2009

Jade buffalo figure sells for $6.6 million

A 250-year-old Chinese carved jade figure purchased for $475 in 1938 has set a new record by selling for nearly $6.6 million at a British auction.

The eight-inch-long jade water buffalo, which was made in the 18th century for Chinese Emperor Qianlong, set a world record for the highest price paid for a jade figure when Giuseppe Eskenazi made the high bid at the Salisbury, England, auction, The Sun reported Thursday.

Seller Lady Diana Miller, 88, said she was very pleased with the sale but the sum hadn't sunk in. Experts had predicted the item might sell for about $800,000.

Miller said her father purchased the figure for $475 in 1938 and put it in a bank vault for safekeeping, where it remained for 70 years, said John Axford of Woolley and Wallis Auctioneers.

Axford said Miller's father died in 1948 and his daughter inherited his property, but she emigrated to southern Africa and returned only in 2005.

When she went to the family vault she thought the old wooden box contained porcelain but in fact, wrapped in newspaper, was the incredible jade buffalo, he said.