The blue-and-white Tianqiuping vase went under the hammer at the Osenat auction house in Fontainebleau, near Paris, and fetched a final price of 9.121 billion euros, including fees, according to the company’s website.
The vase has a spherical body and a long cylindrical neck. It measures 21 x 16 inches and is decorated with dragons and clouds, according to the listing. Tianqiuping vases are also known as “celestial sphere” vases because of their shape.
Jean-Pierre Osenat, president of the auction house, told CNN on Tuesday that the vase’s owner, who lives abroad, asked the auctioneer to sell it as part of a consignment from his late grandmother’s home in Brittany, northwest France.
“It will completely change their lives,” Osenat said. “It’s hard to match them.”
The grandmother was an art collector and had owned the vase for 30 years, he said, adding that there were early signs of strong interest in the vase when dozens of people attended a pre-auction display.
About 300-400 people expressed interest in the tender, Osenat finally limited the number of bidders to 30, and all of them had to pay a deposit to participate.
There were 15 bidders and 15 phones at the auction house, and 10 were still bidding when the price exceeded 5 million euros, Osenat said.
“It’s unbelievable,” he said, adding that its previous highest sale price was in 2007, when a sword used by Napoleon at the Battle of Marengo in 1800 fetched $6.4 million.
As Osenat explained, an appraisal expert said the vase was from the 20th century, so it was not unusual, collectors thought it was from the 18th century.
“I believe in the hammer, that is, I believe that the law of supply and demand determines the market price,” he said. “The point of view of an expert cannot be greater than that of 300 people.”
Sometimes at auctions you can see two or three people who mistakenly believe that an item is much more valuable than an expert has said, but not 300, Osenat said.
“I think the market has spoken,” he said, and now the vase is from the 18th century.
The yet-to-be-identified buyer is Chinese, Osenat said, adding that in recent years Chinese buyers have shown an increasing interest in buying historical artifacts stolen from their country in the past.
Osenat said he believes the vase will be displayed in a museum, but cannot be sure at this stage.