An old piece of porcelain used as a table lamp has turned out to be a 200-year-old Chinese hat stand - and has sold for £540,000.
Bought at a country house sale 50 years ago - at a time when Chinese art wasn't particularly highly valued - it was fitted with a cable and shade.
But when it was sold on a few years ago, the new owner realised it might be valuable and took it to auctioneers Christie's. With a guide price of £200,000 to £300,000, it eventually sold for more than half a million pounds to an unnamed buyer from Asia.
According to Christie's specialist Ivy Chan, the stand was made some time between 1820 and 1850 and was owned by somebody extremely important - possibly the emperor Daoguang himself.
Bearing nine brightly coloured dragons representing divine power, it would originally have been filled with fragrant items to scent the hat, and would have been on display to show off the owner's wealth.
"What was achieved in the 19th century under imperial patronage is really amazing," says Chan.
Chinese porcelain isn't to everyone's taste, and highly-valuable items have frequently been stashed away and ignored. However, there's now a huge market amongst wealthy Chinese buyers.
And in 2014, a widower decided to sell four Chinese panels he'd inherited from his father, expecting to raise two or three hundred pounds. However, to everybody's surprise, the panels attracted huge interest from the far East and eventually sold for £420,000 to a buyer from Shanghai.
Earlier this summer, a valuable Chinese piece dating back to the eighteenth century was discovered being used as a doorstop. Luckily, though, its rough treatment left it relatively unharmed, and it wasn't damaged enough to stop it selling for £649,549.