Skinner Inc.

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Rare & Beautiful Huanghuali Furniture

Huanghuali Furniture

Lot 526: Pair of Low-back Huanghuali Armchairs, 17th/18th century, Auctioned for $118,500

The chairs pictured here sold for $118,500 in the December 2011 Asian Works of Art auction. Why such a high price? They’re made of one of the world’s rarest and most desirable woods: huanghuali.

A member of the rosewood family, huanghuali stands for rarity, beauty and in today’s Chinese furniture market, high prices. It is believed that there are less than 10,000 pieces of huanghuali furniture left in the world. Because the wood is nearing extinction, and is now a protected species, supply is very limited. Matched with the rapidly increasing demand for Chinese antiques, prices for huanghuali furniture have skyrocketed over the past five years.

Huanghuali Furniture

Lot 515: Square Huanghuali Table, China, 17th/18th century, Auctioned for $59,250

Huanghuali is possibly the hottest category of furniture in the world today.

Historically, Hainan Island appears to be the main source of the wood, although it is believed that there are similar species in North Vietnam, Indochina, Guangxi and other islands of the South China Sea. Dating to the mid-Ming period, huanghuali furniture is believed to have been prized by the very wealthy, the upper classes and officials.

An exceptional collection of huanghuali furniture sold in our most recent auction of Asian Works of Art held in early December. With the current strength of the Asian market, we anticipated heavy competition and high prices. Sure enough, exuberant internet bidding, ten telephone lines, absentee bids and of course, participation from those in attendance, led to impressive results.

Distinguishing Features of Huanghuali Furniture

1. Color

The color of huanghuali ranges from golden-yellow to reddish-brown.

Originally, the wood was known only as “huali,” which means “pear tree flower.” “Huang” (yellow) was added to describe the surface of old huali wood that has mellowed over years of exposure to light.

2. Scent

Huanghuali has a sweet fragrance that distinguishes this wood from hongmu, a similar-looking but pungent-smelling wood.

3. Grain

The finest examples have a beautiful grain that can form abstract or even figural patterns on the surface.

 

Huanghuali Furniture

Lot 518: Pair of Huanghuali Stools, China, 18th century, Auctioned for $112,575

32 thoughts on “Rare & Beautiful Huanghuali Furniture

  1. I have some huanghuali furniture that I would like to auction out. Where can I get it a appraiser for the furniture I have?

  2. I own two pieces of huanghuali furniture. One is an 18th century display cabinet. The other is a dragon mirror dating circa 1847. The wood of both pieces has been dyed to resemble zitan (red rosewood/purple sandelwood). I understand this was a not uncommon practice because of zitan’s greater desirability in the Chinese court. If a huanghauli piece has been dyed and is no longer the color described in your entry, is its value at auction greatly diminished?

    • Your question is a legitimate one and unfortunately there is no clear answer. As a whole huanghuali is very competitive at auction however the pieces that have not been dyed appear to command more competition and higher results.

  3. Frank – Actually, my understanding is that a fair amount of huanghuali furniture thats on the market today was actually originally stained or lacquered, or at least the pieces that were bought in Hong Kong is the 80ies and 90ies. It seems that at that time the standard practice there was to strip everything down to the bare wood, though sometimes the original finish can be seen on the undersides of the piece.

  4. Frank – Actually, my understanding is that a fair amount of huanghuali furniture thats on the market today was actually originally stained or lacquered, or at least the pieces that were bought in Hong Kong is the 80ies and 90ies. It seems that at that time the standard practice there was to strip everything down to the bare wood, though sometimes the original finish can be seen on the undersides of the piece.

  5. I have just been to a small exhibition of huanghuali furniture. Owner of the collection says that the huanghuali used is from Vietnam. How do I tell if they are genuine huanghuali? Is there still supply of huanghuali that can be used for reproduction of classic chinese furniture?

  6. My in law has a pair of huang hua li horseshoe back chairs. They have dragon and othet imperial carvings on the seat and back. If you are interested to know, please send an email and a picture will be provided privately.

  7. Hi I’m have a set of huali furniture that i would like to put up for auction, may I obtain more information from you?

    thanks,
    Benn

  8. Dear Stuart,

    Clearly you have had some great successes in selling rare huanghuali furniture, and even as a UK resident which will by default involve higher pre-sale costs; tactile difficulties; & so on, I am still tempted to offer you a piece or two for consignment to your rooms in the new year.
    SO:
    Would you say that your successes in this specialism are the result of a consistent trend toward steady growth, or could an element be attributed to a peak now passed? Tricky question, but I think of tremendous interest to anyone with genuine interest in the specialism. If so, or even partially so, pse advise as to which particular group benefit / or not. Also, when do you hold your fourthcoming fine Chinese works of art sale?; & what date then is your publication/consignment deadline?

    Kindest regards,
    Kirk

  9. Decent Article Although I would like to learn more on the identification of Huanghuali vs. Hongmu and others used in Chinese Antique Furniture. I suspect I have A set of Bow/yoke back chairs that are of Huanghuali but I am not certain. I have several sets of room dividers as well some with very intricate carvings of bats, dragons and other designs. I am interested in selling most of my collection if I can get a fair market value.

  10. Hello, I have a pair of officials chairs but I am not sure how old they are, or if they are genuine. They are definitely yellow sweet smelling wood, and they look like Huang Hua Li style, but each has a very small nail in different places, such as one on the arm and another where the top rail meets the upright of the back of the chair. They also seem to have a deteriorated tar-like paper stuck to the underside of the seats. I bought them from a specialist chinese dealer in Brisbane about 20 years ago, but I know that is not a guarantee that they are genuine. Thank you.

  11. I own 3 beautiful Huanghuali chests which were purchased when I was living in Singapore from 1987 until 1994. I am downsizing and would like to sell them. I’m not sure of the best way to go about that. Any help you could give me would be appreciated. What is your commission fee? Thank you.

  12. Hello. I have two horseshoe chairs that need to be refinished. The chairs have no missing or damaged areas – they just look very worn and could use some sprucing up. I’d like to know if refinishing will affect their value? Thanks!

  13. In August I received an email from Skinner Inc. regarding the evaluation I submitted on my huanghuali altar table. The reference number is 126573. Could you please respond? Thank you.

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