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Anyone know something about Japanese gold hallmarks?

  1. rcs914 Jul 31, 2020

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    So I inherited this belt buckle, which I have utterly no information on, other than it is obviously hand made, appears to be mostly solid gold of unknown carat, and is stamped on the back with two Kanji cartouches that I've not been able to identify. It weighs exactly 20.0G total. I am guessing that it is Japanese, but I do not know for certain, and it could be Chinese too.

    I'm hoping that with the amazing breadth of knowledge here, that someone may be able to at least point me in the right direction to track down information on this. It's been in a sock drawer for likely decades at this point.

    IMG_20200731_091500.jpg IMG_20200731_091510.jpg IMG_20200731_091903.jpg IMG_20200731_091940.jpg
     
  2. rcs914 Aug 15, 2020

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    Ahh well I knew it was a long shot. I just can't find anything like this in pictures online
     
  3. krogerfoot Aug 16, 2020

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    Oh, hey, I didn't see this. The one on the right is "Fussa," west of Tokyo, now the site of a US military base. The one on the left is "Harakana." There is a company called Harakana that makes metal tooling, but the hallmark isn't really presented like it's a company or personal name, and wouldn't be a common one in Japan, certainly. Google keeps serving up a fishing boat operation called "Harakin," which is another way to pronounce it, but I'm not getting anything connected with goldsmithing. It does really strike me as Japanese and not Chinese, but I can't rule out Chinese. Interestingly, 原金 could be understood as meaning "base metal" or "raw gold," but it's not a term in use in Japanese.
     
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  4. rcs914 Aug 16, 2020

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    Thanks @krogerfoot! I really appreciate the information. I think part of the problem is that I just have no idea on age - the style is very handmade, and I don't know if it is 75 years old or 275 years old. I've not yet found a book on belt buckle design ;)

    I'd like to find out more, since if it is on the older side, I would guess it is worth far more than the raw cost of ~20 grams of gold. I just have no idea where to go with it frankly.
     
  5. krogerfoot Aug 16, 2020

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    It's far from my area of expertise, but a couple of possible clues: The buckle looks like it was worked by hand rather than being poured into a mold of some type. The hallmarks look like they were hand-carved from wood. The wabi-sabi aesthetic in Japan prizes a certain rough-hewn workmanship, but that's not the feeling I'm getting from this buckle. The technology for typesetting/printmaking and especially metalwork has been developed to a high degree in Japan since pretty far back, so the buckle and the hallmarks would have seemed really crude 75 or even 150 years ago. This makes me think it's much older.
     
  6. rcs914 Aug 17, 2020

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    This is really helpful, thank you! And yes, I definitely thought it looked entirely handmade, with the only flourish being the attachment of the pin to the shaft at the back - that loop over with the "wings" is kind of neat. I tried finding anything on "Eido period goldsmiths" but Google these days is less than helpful for that type of search. It's not going anywhere for now, but I'd like to find out more of the story regarding it.

    Not to impose too much I hope, but your area of expertise wouldn't include pre-war wood carvings would it? Other items I inherited were a set of the seven lucky gods that my aunt and uncle supposedly picked up in the 1930s when visiting Japan. Once again Google has plenty that are just raw wood, but these are painted. Thanks!

    IMG_20200817_075944.jpg IMG_20200817_080003.jpg
     
  7. krogerfoot Aug 17, 2020

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    I have no idea about these things. One place to investigate with regard to the buckle is whether it was made for a military uniform. You don't see a lot of belt buckles like this in traditional Japanese clothing. The era you'll want to Google is the "Edo" era.
     
  8. rcs914 Aug 19, 2020

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    Thanks for the info! And yes, I did mean Edo above - that was a typo.
     
  9. OmegaP99 Aug 19, 2020

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    I have been fascinated by this thread, party because I have been playing around with making one-off buckles in sterling silver (and maybe gold down the road). Do you think it's possible the buckle looks this way from use and wear? It would explain how the buckle would have likely been finely finished as you suggest but over the many decades it wore down where friction occurred such as at the bar and where the strap or cloth would weave through?
     
  10. krogerfoot Aug 19, 2020

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    This occurred to me. It's obviously been used quite a bit. The homemade-looking aspect of the stamped hallmarks make me think it's an old piece, but this is just armchair logic.

    There's a TV show in Japan similar to Antiques Roadshow where experts assess people's treasures and let them know their value. It's fun to watch experts at work and there's always a mix of worthless crap and priceless discoveries, and the scholarship is always lucidly explained. If among my few acquaintances there are any connections to someone who might know something about this kind of thing, I will surely ask.
     
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  11. OmegaP99 Aug 19, 2020

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    @krogerfoot Is there a way I can find this show in the US or on Youtube maybe? Big fan of the original Brit AR as well as the US version. The US show experts don't always know what they are looking at, when we went on the Roadshow they selected my friend as a featured guest and I got one of those quick-take evaluations between the main segments. In the case of my friend's item, they took a few hours discussing among themselves and researching online before finally deciding it was worth featuring. Their valuation was close, but low. In my case the expert didn't care what I told him, that the piece was signed by the artist, and he claimed it was the signature of the person who's collection it was from (???) and valued it as a generic item for around $1,500. I sold it properly attributed to the artist who signed it to an informed collector of his work for $4,500.
     
  12. krogerfoot Aug 20, 2020

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    Look up "Kaiun! Nandemo Kanteidan" on YouTube. There's a bunch of Japanese-language fan videos that give the gist of the show. I couldn't find anything with English subtitles, but I didn't look terribly hard.
    https://www.tv-tokyo.co.jp/kantei/ : Link to the show's home page
    : From the classic era, with now-disgraced host Shunsuke Shimada (run out of the business for consorting with gangsters)
    : A typical recent segment with a nice discussion at the end about the authenticity and artistic value of the piece under discussion
     
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  13. Tony C. Ωf Jury member Aug 20, 2020

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    While certainly attractive, I also think that this was a hand-made buckle. I can't imagine the (charming) asymmetries being the result of wear. And given that premise, I would be very surprised if it weren't gold.
     
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  14. SadKen Aug 20, 2020

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    I would pursue the " Chinese " angle if i were you.
    The left hallmark i think is purity over gold ( little house is gold in chinese hallmarks ) as suggested by @krogerfoot.
    No idea regarding the other mark.
    Could be Mandarin or Cantonese.
    GLWSearch
     
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  15. rcs914 Aug 20, 2020

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    While there are scratches and other marks, the piece itself doesn't feel worn smooth like it were from belt wear. Plus I'm pretty sure given their location that the marks on the back would have been some of the first parts to wear away. With the way gold prices are right now it had gotten me thinking about the piece, but it's been in a box for a decade so far with just me - I'm not in need of $1K so badly that I would go and scrap it for sure - too much of a history buff. At this point it's still a mystery.

    As a side note, something like this brings out the gaps in knowledge for what exists online as researchable information. I mean this may be well detailed in a book somewhere, but trying to find that? Exceedingly difficult. It remains a back burner armchair project at the moment.
     
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  16. Bumper Aug 20, 2020

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    I've been reading through some chinese sites with my terrible mandarin.

    On the left is 原金, "yuan jing", original gold. The stamp is to indicate that the product is made of solid gold & not plated.

    I was trying to figure out if it also denoted the gold purity, as 千足金 means 99% purity. But have not found anything yet.

    The mark on the right is 福


    "Fortune life" or "good luck life" which i suspect is a makers mark.
    In the far east, its very common to have a whole range of stuff on display in a jewellers' store. All made of gold. Pens, belt buckles, amulet holders, watch bands, key fobs for expensive cars, etc These will be made in 18k, 20k & 22k. You'll be hard pressed to find anything under 18k...

    If you want to be less subtle, there are little things you buy for home display that also double up as feng shui items or to ward off bad luck. Like say a pineapple, a frog, gold coins...these will be in 24k.

    Traditional weddings require the 4 pieces of gold, often full of hidden meaning. A bracelet, a ring, a necklace & earrings usually. With Dragons, pigs, phoenixes... but i digress. Very few people actually buy this stuff.

    Screenshot_20200821-013132_Google.jpg
     
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  17. OmegaP99 Aug 20, 2020

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    Thank you, I will give these a watch today, much appreciated!

    Exciting thread and good research you've managed there! I just hope that we can find the time period this was made in, and hopefully that maker's mark will get us there. Which leads to my next comment...

    This is very true and when I had an antiques business with a partner we collected every book on the specific items we dealt with that we could find. Very often it was the only source for hallmarks, maker's marks, dating pieces, their origins, compositions, and so on. Somewhere there's a book with this maker's mark in it waiting for us to find it. Maddeningly exciting.
     
  18. rcs914 Aug 21, 2020

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  19. rcs914 Aug 27, 2020

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    So on the Asian art forum a user replied with the following, which still doesn't tell me a lot, but maybe there just isn't a great way to get further info:

    "原金 - Yuanjin - Primary gold
    Could be interpreted ① "All gold, not other ingredients"  ② or simply a name of a gold shop
    福生 - Fusheng - Blessed life
    A Taoist word.

    With regards,
    I.Nagy"