The ceramics and glass specialist took a look at two unusual plates brought in by a guest on BBC staple Antiques Roadshow and was instantly impressed. On the classic episode of the popular programme, the owner of the items was left in tears after discovering just how much the plates – which dated back to the 1600s – were worth.
Looking at the white plates decorated with pictures and a blue outline, John commented: “They seem to be a matching pair of plates, but one’s painted with a comical [Chinese man], and here you’ve got a figure of a king.”
“They’re very peculiar,” he laughed before asking: “What do you know about them?”
“Well, I remember them on the wall of my husband’s parents’ house,” the guest explained.
“And traditionally, in the family, they were said to be very valuable.
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“But no one else seemed to know anything else about them.
“In due course, they came to my husband. And when I asked him about them, he said all he knows about them is that they came from his mum’s family.”
“They’re Delftware, which is, in a way, the European copy of Chinese porcelain before we knew how to make the real stuff,” John noted.
“Crude pottery covered with a white tin glaze, and that’s what these are.
“Most of the early Delft is copying Chinese designs and that is the design we have here I suppose.”
Looking more in-depth at the designs, he pointed out: “What is curious is the palette and the colouring.
“We’ve got some nice mixes of colours, which does indicate really quite an early date.”
The presenter added: “So we’re looking back here into the 17th century.
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“But one thing we do find in early Delft often are portraits of the reigning kings and queens of the time.
Looking at the plate featuring a king, he added: “So one wonders here what this chap might be – so they’re a very splendid king with a sceptre.
“And I suppose he’s holding a letter or a scroll – who do you think he is?”
“I really, really don’t have a clue I’m afraid,” the owner of the items confessed.
John elaborated: “He must be a British king. One tries to pick a date from the plates and looking at the designs, I’ve seen ones before with a similar king which depicts James II.
“I think that’s probably who he is, so that goes back to 1685, it’s a relatively short reign.
“So you’ve got a pair of plates here, probably made in London… but they’re about as rare as you can get.”
As the guest gasped, the expert continued: “I mean, this one is a bit of a shocking state, it’s been broken in half and someone liked it enough to stitch it together, just about.
“But it’s barely held together – but this is really quite an important piece of pottery because you’ve got a picture of the king on a rare plate with rare colours.
“So let’s think, the perfect but Chinese subject one, shall we say – £10,000 to £20,000.”
An audible gasp rippled through the onlookers as the guest was left stunned.
John added: “The broken one, it’s got to be more than that, so at least £30,000.”
“Oh my god,” the plate owner exclaimed, throwing her face to her hands.
“Together as a pair, £30,000 or more,” John added. As the bewildered guest appeared emotional, she admitted: “I brought them in my handbag!”
“That’s alright, a good strong handbag,” John laughed before she tearfully responded: “Can I cry now?”
Antiques Roadshow is available to watch on BBC iPlayer.