While China’s communists spent fifty years taking a hammer to anything with history, Hong Kongers set about saving what they could…and then selling it. Beijing may have put down its hammer but Hong Kongers continue to scour China for the country’s many treasures. The best Chinese antiques can be found in Hong Kong.
Is Hong Kong antique shopping cheap?One myth of Hong Kong antique shopping is that antiques can be picked up for the pennies in your pocket. They can’t. The dealers here know their products and they know their value and most of the best antiques won’t come cheap. Don’t expect Walmart prices for a Ming era vase; they are expensive because that is their value.
Can antiques be picked up cheaply, sure; smaller trinkets won’t break the bank but again, any price will reflect the value of the item. It’s also important to draw a distinction between the city’s genuine antique dealers and market stalls flogging Mao’s little red book and ‘jade’ jewellery. For the most part, the difference is common sense; someone selling a small statue of Mao on the floor of Hollywood Road is not selling the real thing. Be guided by the price, a piece of priceless jade jewellery handed to a 16th century emperor of China by his consort is not going to be flogged for HK$50.
Prices for Chinese antiques will be cheaper in China proper - although not necessarily in Shanghai and Beijing - as the market is less mature but it’s also more maverick. What you’re paying for in Hong Kong is guaranteed expertise and authentication on antiques. In China you will often have to take your chances on the authenticity of the product.
Where should I shop for antiques in Hong Kong?Your destination is Hollywood Road. One of Hong Kong’s oldest streets, older than the more famous Hollywood in California, is a curving road lined by the city’s oldest and best antique dealers. There are more than a dozen shops on the street, many with specialities in certain periods or certain types of artefact, from furniture to vases. Many are family run operations and have been in business for decades.
Shops vary from three floor emporiums to pokey holes in the wall but don’t be put off by the size many of the dealers have warehouses in Aberdeen that can be viewed upon appointment.
For cheaper reproductions, curios and outright fakes, the stalls and shops around Cat Street have an almost endless selection. Much of the stuff was made in Shenzhen yesterday but it’s very convincing and very cheap.
What should I know about buying antiques in Hong Kong?There isn’t a great deal of science to shopping for antiques in Hong Kong. As mentioned above, for the most part, spotting reproductions and fakes is obvious thanks to where they are being sold and the price.
While the city’s reputation for scams is much overblown it’s still advisable to be wary when purchasing pricey antiques. Look for trustworthy antique dealers endorsed by the Hong Kong Tourism Board which display a gold circle in their shop window – buying from proven dealers is the best advice for antique novices. For heftier purchases reputable dealers will offer tests to verify the authenticity of the item, from wood, jade, glass, stone to porcelain. If the piece fails the test, the shop should pick up the price. Also enquire as to whether the piece has been repaired or restored as this will impact its value.