WELLINGTON, Oct. 18 (Xinhua) -- A pair of antique Chinese carved rhinoceros horns have sold for a record price of 797,300 NZ dollars (674,364 U.S. dollars), an Auckland auction house announced Friday.
The 19th Century horns, described as the finest and rarest example of a Chinese antique ever offered on the New Zealand market, had been expected to fetch just 120,000 to 150,000 NZ dollars -- in line with similar horns sold on the global market, said a spokesman for Webb's Auction House.
"This is one of the highest prices ever achieved for antique carved rhinoceros horns globally and is the highest price ever achieved across the New Zealand antique market. The sale price exceeded the high estimate by 454 percent," the spokesman said in a statement.
Five bidders had been engaged up to the level of 500,000 NZ dollars and two bidders fought fiercely from there to win the horns when they went under the hammer on Thursday.
Global demand was extremely high for carved rhinoceros horns and their scarcity had driven the price per kilogram beyond that of gold, platinum and cocaine, he said.
"Prices have rocketed over the past decade, with a more than 400-percent average increase being driven by exceptional demand from wealthy buyers in the Chinese market. The strength of the market today is also linked to the immense rarity of these objects: it is believed that there are no more than 3,000 to 4,000 extant carved horns worldwide," he said.
The intricate decorations represented the auspicious Chinese symbols of beauty, perseverance, healing and longevity.
The horns were formerly in the collection of Sir John Budd Phear (18251905), a High Court judge in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). His son, Gilbert Phear (18771955), brought them to New Zealand in the early 20th Century and they had passed through his family.
The Chinese tradition of rhinoceros-horn carving dated back at least to the eighth century, evolving from drinking vessels to purely decorative objects that were available only to the wealthy and very important.
The spokesman did not identify the buyer of the horns.