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Japanese Antimony Ware

Antimony is a soft silvery grey metal element which is easily cast or stamped into form.  In Japan it was used to produce decorative metal ware, most commonly small boxes or dishes, often with highly detailed designs.  The items could also be plated to resemble silver, and some silvered examples look very convincingly like solid silver having that distinctive warm tone.  Antimony is far denser than silver however, so weighing in the hand is usually an easy giveaway.

Japanese antimony items were made in quite a range of colours due to plating or alloying and can be from silver, through gold tones, pewter, reddish bronze and browns.  Antimony is a very soft metal like lead so can be easily dented but can often be bent back into shape with little negative effect.  Japanese items were also made with antimony alloys which can be significantly harder and more like copper in terms of resisting knocks.  Due to the softness of the metal pieces often exhibit some dents and knocks.  Plated examples are often found very worn as the plating is easily rubbed off antimony while cleaning and polishing, it is not uncommon to find such items with just traces remaining in the crevices.

Currently the market for Japanese antimony is quite small, and prices are consequently very reasonable despite the apparent scarcity.  As far as I am aware there are no reference works specifically for the subject, if one is produced this often leads to a big jump in interest and value.  If you like this type of item it is currently a good time to put together a collection as even high quality pieces are affordable for most. To check our stock of these items you can click here.

 

Examples

 

 

Japanese silvered antimony trinket box with cast pictorial lid, Taisho period.

 

japanese art deco antimony box Japanese antimony cigarette box in bronze effect finish.  Unusual Westernised Art Deco styling and bakelite handle.  Early Showa period c1930.  Marked 'Japan' and has a sailing ship motif to underside.
Japanese antimony hinged lid trinket box decorated with a tiger to the top.  Worn silvering leaving a pewter tone underneath, Taisho or early Showa period.
japanese antimony candlestick A scarce antimony candlestick with copper plating.  It has designs of entwined dragons and an open column, Taisho period.