This virtually flawless sphere is one of the four largest known. The largest, at 12 7/8 inches, is now in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. The Smithsonian sphere was reportedly fashioned by Chinese lapidaries in Shanghai between 1920-1924, from a half-ton block of Burmese rock crystal. The second largest flawless crystal ball is also in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution, and is currently on loan to the Los Angeles Museum of Natural History. The third known largest flawless crystal ball was sold in these rooms, 23-24 June 1983, lot 278.
The current example, like those above, was made entirely by hand in a laborious process. The final hand polishing, using finely powdered iron oxide, gave these spheres a luster rarely achieved using modern gem polishing machinery.
Rock crystal carvings have long been prized by the Chinese, warranting a dedicated discussion chapter in collecting guides such as the late Ming aesthete Zhang Yingwen's Pure and Arcane Collecting. Rock crystal symbolizes purity and perfection, while the sphere represents completeness and the infinity of space.
This lot is accompanied by Gem Identification Card #42291 from the Swiss Gemmological Institute.