A delicate Chinese porcelain vase believed to have been crafted for an emperor 275 years ago has sold for more than $9 million after turning up in a cupboard in a country home in central Europe. The rare find—actually two vases in one, with a pierced outer layer of yangcai ("foreign colors") and an inner layer painted in traditional blue and white—was once owned by British collector Harry Garner, who sold it for the modern-day equivalent of $1,500 in 1954, according to Sotheby's. Some time later, a woman inherited the vase without knowing much about its worth—that is, until a Sotheby's expert arrived to inspect it, per Atlas Obscura. The auction house says double-walled vases like this one were only made over two years in the early 1740s, during the reign of the Qianlong Emperor.
Overseen by imperial kiln supervisor Tang Ying, "the extremely small group of pierced, double-walled vases that were produced for the Qianlong Emperor provided probably the greatest technical challenge ever for the potters at the imperial kilns," a ceramics scholar notes. "The perfection of the execution is next to miraculous." Sotheby's says imperial records suggest the emperor considered the vase a masterwork and displayed it at the Palace of Heavenly Purity, where he hosted banquets. Before realizing its value, its most recent owner kept the foot-tall vase with Rococo-style flowers and celadon-green lattice in an open cupboard in a home with multiple cats and dogs, per Smithsonian. It sold last month at auction in Hong Kong for just over $9 million. (More Sotheby's stories.)