The Collector’s Minute: Chokin-Style Decorative Art

Chokin-style decoration originated in Japan for samurai swords, but after laws banned the carrying of such weapons, artists applied their trade to more mundane decorative pieces.

Chokin metal work is an art form that dates all the way back to the 12th 
century and used a variety of different colored metals from base metals 
to 24-karat gold. The color of each metal used as part of the overall design, 
in many cases on a dark background.

This technique was once used to 
decorate the armor, weapons and hilts of samurai swords, but when the samurai class was banned form carrying swords in 1876, the choking artists expanded into decorative arts items sold for 
export and the general market.

The designs are typically of traditional
 Japanese folklore and art, depicting geisha, pagoda landscapes, fishing boats 
and mythological beings such as dragons, immortals and demons.

This vase is a two-metal type, the enameled finish and brass engraved 
through to the silvery base metal to highlight the design work of the 
swimming carp in silver. It’s stamped on the bottom, “Expressive 
Designs, Inc., Made in Japan.”

We don’t have much information on this 
company, except that it appears to have been an import-export business 
located in Fort Lauderdale, FL, and marketed a large line of limited-edition collectibles of a type popular in North America since the 1980s, a period 
where demand for items of this type peaked.

Limited-edition collectibles were most often sold on the premise that, because 
they were only going to be made in limited numbers, their future rarity would 
increase value over time. Sadly, in nearly all cases this has not occurred. Most such items even 30 years past their initial sale have failed to even maintain 
their original retail value.

Values for the modern chokin -type vases by Expressive Designs, Inc., and their competitors are still very 
modest at the current time. Generally, at auction, most comparable chokin 
vases sell in the $30-to-$60 range.


Mike Wilcox, of Wilcox & Hall Appraisers, is a Worthologist who specializes in Art Nouveau and the Arts and Craft movement.

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