CHINESE EXPORT SILVER: Hong Kong Nostalgia

The Hong Kong retail silversmith WAI KEE 惠記 [in Mandarin: HUI JI] is one of the few retailers that truly spans three centuries; founded in 1885, the firm is still operating in almost the same location by Pedder Street with the same specialities of pearls, jewellery and what has become known as Chinese export silver wares. As opposed to other similar firms operating today in Hong Kong that lay claim to longevities in trading, Wai Kee is the oldest retail jeweller and silversmith in Hong Kong.

In 1941, the Wai Kee store [Fig.1] can be seen on the prominent corner of Pedder Street and Queen’s Road under the Hong Kong Hotel which stood there in various guises from 1868-1952;

the original building with open verandahs [Fig.2] was certainly the most evocative and luxurious in that area at the time – its telegraphic address was “KREMLIN”. The Kuhn & Komor store, [Fig.3] in circa 1920, was also under the hotel which was equally famous for its silver wares but unlike Wai Kee, did not run its own silver-making workshops.

The hotel may be long-gone and the merchandise of the Wai Kee store today may be more commercial and generic than the items it sold back in the day, but in my daily research quest to build the ultimate database of Chinese silver wares of the Qing dynasty and the Republic era I encountered a nice surprise; some items carrying the Wai Kee silver mark made for the Royal Hong Kong Police [RHKP]. Perhaps, given current news coming out of Hong Kong these days, this sparked a degree of nostalgia for its Crown Colony days.

A pair of Wai Kee sterling silver cufflinks and tie clip [Fig 4 collectively] with cast silver and enamel emblems of the RHKP came as an initial surprise, but on reflection it would have been totally natural to have wearable insignia made by a local Hong Kong firm; it’s certainly the first time I have encountered what is now RHKP memorabilia, albeit Wai Kee made a speciality of manufacturing small dishes with inset old coins as well as items of silver for the many Hong Kong clubs that abounded in the late 19th and throughout the 20th century.

References:

Fig.1: University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee Library Digital Collections: Harrison Forman Collection; gwulo.com

Fig.2&3: gwulo.com

Fig.4: chinese-export-silver.com  QING DYNASTY SILVER IMAGE ARCHIVE 

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Comments
One Response to “CHINESE EXPORT SILVER: Hong Kong Nostalgia”
  1. Barbara Schipper says:

    A wonderful addition to my Chinese Export Silver documentation, mainly from Adrien’s hand. Thank you!!!

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