The pottery from the Neolithic cultures of northern and southern China is among the earliest pottery about 7,000 B.C.
The other ancient potteries are known in Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Greek and Japan.
The earliest potteries are usually unglazed though some of them have moulded or carved with shallow relief.
The later potteries are painted with geometric motifs in black or purple and reddish brown paints.
In the Shang dynasty (1650-1027 BC), there are evidence of glazing and use of a fine white clay (a forerunner of porcelain).
However, the Chinese potters began to produce glazed wares for a wide range of items in the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD). The lead glaze is fired to about 700 °C and becomes glassy. In this period, the Han potteries have a thin glaze of green or ochre or a thicker glaze of brown. Some Japanese archaeologist believes that the use of green lead glaze by Han potters originated from the glass technology of the ancient Romans. Anyway, the glaze is a significant achievement in ceramics.
The glaze can be mixed by metal oxides such as iron and tin to produce a coloured glaze. In the Tang dynasty, the potters used multi-coloured glaze and the potteries are know as the three-coloured wares. The three-coloured potteries are widely famous for the figures of horses and camels with non-Chinese riders. In the Song dynasty, the popular potteries are covered by a white glaze and painted by black motifs. The green potteries continued to be produced from the Han dynasty to the Song Dynasty, and became more refined and are classified as Celadon. In the Ming dynasty, cobalt was mixed into the glaze to produce the very popular blue-on-white wares which were exported to the Near East and the Europe.
The development of the European pottery started much slower than the Chinese wares. The high-temperature potteries were not manufactured in a large quantity in Germany, Holland, and other European countries until the 17th century. In the 17th to 18th centuries, the European potters often used the Chinese theme to decorate their wares. Many of the wares were made in the Ming blue-white style. The blue-white potteries are still produced in China and are today exported to the whole world.
The experienced collectors and art dealers can quickly spot fake porcelain that has the telltales,
such as wrong glazes, incorrect trade marks, wrong shapes, and wrong colour or decoration.
For sophisticated forgeries, the experts can use the laboratory test of thermoluminescence dating.
The test requires drilling holes in the piece to extract 100 mg of sample.
The test could, however, be fooled by a fake piece that is made from ground-up bits of ancient porcelain.
Other forgery techniques include irradiating to age, computer scanning and modeling, and advanced printing of patterns.
Ordinary collectors might not want to pay for laboratory tests.
The following advice is from James N. Spencer of Christie's:
For buying antiques, the most dependent sources should be established curio shops or reliable auctioneers. Another method is the research of records - where it was sold or bought, who were the buyers or sellers, background and history, etc. If the source of the piece is unknown, more care should be exercised to examine the work of art to prevent buying fakes.
Source: (Cosmopolitan Magazine (Hong Kong), 1993)
For a quick check, the collectors can examine the mark on the bottom of a piece. In the United States, a law was passed in 1891 to require all imported ceramics bearing the name of the country of origin on the bottom. One could quickly estimate the range of years. For example, the popular British porcelains of the 19th Century carry the mark of "England" since 1891. For Chinese porcelains of the Ming and the Qing dynasties, the more expensive pieces carry the marks of the year of manufacture. For examples, Made in the Yung-lo year (1403-1424) or Made in the K'ang-hsi year of the Great Qing (1662-1772).
"Each of us comes to craft work in a different way. Some approach it as a business, and for others it is mostly a personal - sometimes introspective - activity. For all of us, it is to some degree a form of therapy, a chance to stare the world in the eye and say, "I made this."
Tim McCreight, Jewellery, 1997
Starting from the late 19th century, many painters and sculptors once again took interest in jewellery design as in the
Renaissance. Among them were Braque, Jensen, Picasso and Dali. Some of their designs were described as appropriate and wearable,
while some were termed lavish and extravagant.
Surrealistic artist Salvador Dali (1904-1989) proclaimed:
"My jewels are a protest against the high cost of jewellery materials. My aim is to show the jeweller's art in its true perspective - where the design and the craftsmanship are of more value than the gems, as in the Renaissance era."
In general, his designs are elegant but somewhat elaborate when compared with the work of other artists-craftsmen. The picture The Gold Cube Cross (right) is one of his designs in the Collection of Sculptured Jewels by Salvador Dali.
It is a popular method of making identical prints of drawings created by artists, for example Rembrandt. In this method, a metal plate (usually copper, zinc or steel)
is coated by a waxy paint and a picture is drawn on the paint with a sharp tool to expose the metal beneath the paint.
Then the plate is submerged in an acid bath (often nitric acid). The acid eats into the exposed lines on the plate.
The paint is wiped away from the whole plate, leaving an image on the metal plate. After rinsing and cleaning the plate, etching ink is applied to the plate.
When the plate is wiped, the picture appears as lines (holding the ink). Finally, a moist paper is placed on top of the plate which is run through a press.
The paper lifted from the plate will show an opposite image of the etched lines.
The following YouTube video shows several etching techniques:
When a celestial body passes in front of another body in the line of sight to an observer on the earth, this results in a temporary obstruction of the view
and is called an occultation. This type of astronomical events is often possible to view in a clear cloudless night with naked eyes.
An ordinary camera can be used using manual modes and low shutter speeds to bring a spectacular picture, though a tripod and longer lenses are required for better results.
The picture on the right was taken on 26 February 2014 in Toronto, Canada, when the moon and Venus passed before each other.
48mm focus length, ISO100, 3.2 sec, F6.3, manual focus.
Since prehistoric times, man has been drawing pictures of his surroundings animals, natural events, scenery, etc.
Recent years, people have discovered the ability of domesticated animals to paint.
The paintings produced by these animals are basically of abstract nature, except those by the elephants in which there are some artistic elements comparable to the skills of human novice painters.
Because of the warm, natural colour and feel, wood is a treasured material for decorative and functional objects.
In contrast to gold, wood can, however, decay under unfavourable circumstances,
but wood can last for centuries if they have been tended carefully.
There are some tips to keep old wood objects or furniture in the tip-top condition: