I did consulting for a Dutch-based import company that deals in authentic Asian antiques. They buy antiques from China and then import them into Europe and the United States for purchase by collectors. Their showroom is by appointment only, very exclusive and they certify their inventory. If they say something is Ming Dynasty, it is.
The owner of the company is a very fascinating man, Dutch-born and very successful in business. And quite the art collector. One day while visiting his office he was opening 4 crates and pulling out these really old looking vases. He was handling them with nitrile gloves and being very careful with them. He sat each into these old wood and glass display cases.
I asked him what they were.
They were ceremonial burial vases. Dated late Western Han Dynasty (206B.C. - 24A.D.)
"Wait, you mean these things are 2,000 years old?
"Yes, but not just that..."
I knew him to be very private, but he'd also made reference to his strong Christian faith on several occasions during our 2 years working together.
"If these are late Western Han... what is the likelihood that they were made while Christ was alive?"
He smiled at me - I had guessed correctly.
"Very good. Do you like them?"
I studied each, they were relatively plain, but showed some fine detail work around the little handles.
"As far as Chinese pottery goes, they are not as ornate or beautiful as I am used to seeing. But I am fascinated by their age."
"So am I." he responded.
I didn't say anything else about them. They sat behind his desk on an old cadenza for the next year.
As my contract with them was ending and I was preparing to move one (I'd helped them hire an in-house person to continue the work I'd started for them), I came into his office one last time.
I noticed that another one of the vases had disappeared. Over the past year he'd either sold or given one away - he was a very generous man and would often give extravagant gifts to his friends and family.
We talked for a few minutes and laughed. He had such a dry sense of humor. I rose to shake his hand (I'm 6'2" - and he was easily 6'4" - he was a mountain of a man to me).
"Before you leave, I have a little parting gift for you. Something I know you will treasure and appreciate."
I was embarrassed. I never expected anything from him, he'd paid me handsomely for the work I'd done for his company.
"I want you to be very careful with it. Put it somewhere special."
I didn't know what to say other than, "Thank you, I will."
I was followed to my car by one of the many porters that worked in his showroom, moving antiques here and there. They rolled a cart with a very solid looking crate on it out to my car. Thankfully I drove an SUV at the time and it easily fit in the back seat where I secured it with one of the seat belts.
When I got back to my office, I opened the crate and was shocked to see a set of nitrile gloves sitting at the top of the heavy packing, some sort of shredded paper. The vase was packed in a custom-molded Styrofoam case, sat inside the wood and glass case in which it was displayed in his office.
I had learned that even the display case was special. It was early Qing Dynasty (around 1700) and was itself 300 years old.
A year later I'd sit down with a master carpenter - a good friend of mine, and I'd design the book cases for my office. The centerpiece of these book cases would be the vase - it actually locks into the shelf, a clever design - that prevents it from being moved, tipped, knocked - a helpful thing in the earthquake zone known as California.