Whilst most jade and jadeite censers are carved with a variety of archaistic themes around the body, this censer is decorated with a contemporary theme of the dragon.
Compare to a larger example (22.2 cm. across) featuring similar dragon handles and lion finial but leaving the body plain, sold at Christie's Hong Kong, 26 April 2004, lot 967. Compare also to two important jadeite censers from American museum collections which share similar features to the example sold at Christie's, the first from the T.B. Walker Foundation, sold at Sotheby's Hong Kong, 17 November 1988, lot 299; the other from the Cleveland Museum of Art Collection, sold at Sotheby's Hong Kong, 30 October 1992, lot 381.
Jadeite was known during the Ming Dynasty but was not generally accepted as material for carvings until the latter part of the Qianlong reign in the late 18th century. A generic jade material from Burma, jadeite was distinct from nephrite in appearance and texture, with a brilliant spectrum of colours, and as such, jadeite was of historical importance largely for the development of jade as jewellery in China. During the later 19th century, the glass-like translucency of the rarest emerald-green coloured jadeite came to be prized by the ladies of the Qing court, led by the formidable Empress Dowager Cixi herself. From then on, gem-quality jadeite became synonymous with status and sophistication.
Given the rarity, quality and value of the jadeite boulder used for this substantial censer, it is quite remarkable that the rough was used for a single object and not carved into smaller ornaments.
A gemological certificate from the Hong Kong Jade & Stone Laboratory Limited confirms the present lot is natural green jadeite.