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"Rhino horn is made of condensed and hardened hair and its natural colour is pale yellow but this cup has been stained and polished so that it is a rich warm brown," says Lawrences' specialist, Anthony Kilroy. "Such objects can date from the Tang dynasty (618-906AD) but this bowl is more probably 18th Century in date, manufactured at a time of great creativity in China when the talismanic qualities of rhino horn were revered: it was said to be a great aphrodisiac, an aid to longevity and that it was able to prevent death by poisoning because toxins would bubble and foam when put in contact with the horn cup. Most were made as ritualistic vessels and some were given to scholars upon the completion of their examinations. A rhino horn cup is emblematic of many of the most notable elements of traditional Chinese life and they are now keenly collected in the Asian world."
Cups like this were worth just a few hundred pounds in the 1980's but Lawrences expects this 5-inch wide example to make £3000-5000.