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Photographing priceless pieces from the Ching Dynasty Collection

Last year I had a once in a lifetime opportunity to photograph a truly exquisite collection of mother of pear hand-engraved gambling counters, all made over 200 years ago.

These exquisite works of art started life in Canton China during the period between 1750 to 1830, in the ‘Middle Kingdom’ during the ‘Last Dynasty of Imperial China’.

Pieces available in the collection were commissioned to be carved by European Royalty, Dukes, Barons, Lords and nobility.  Equipped with only basic hand tools available, the incredibly talented Chinese artisans produced unbelievably detailed work of highest quality, almost impossible to be replicated today.

My job as a photographer was to capture the brilliance of this artistry in each image.  It meant focusing on three things; detail, reflection and colour of each piece.

Each counter had to be photographed showing the highest level of detail that could be captured in one image.  This means using a range of lights, some positioned to far side, in order to bring out the contrast and emphasise the engravings.

Being a natural material, each Mother of pearl piece, is not only uneven on surface but is different in colour.  This means each piece will reflect and show its colour differently as it’s positioned under studio lights.

It was such a pleasure photographing these antique pieces, admiring in my studio something that was once held in the hands of Kings and Queens.

To view the full Ching Dynasty Collection, please visit their website  chingdynastycollection.com