A couple living in the Cotswolds were gobsmacked when a cup in their garage turned out to be an antique Chinese treasure from the Qing Dynasty worth thousands of pounds.

The centuries-old rhinoceros horn libation cup was found by an antiques expert during a routine house visit to the area.

The ‘mystical antique’ is thought to have detected poison and may have held aphrodisiac qualities around 350 years ago.

The late 17th or early 18th century cup is now estimated to fetch between £3,000-£5,000 when it goes up for auction at Hansons Auctioneers on November 30.

The unique cup was found to be an antique Chinese relic (Picture: SWNS)
The unique cup was found to be an antique Chinese relic (Picture: SWNS)

Charles Hanson, owner of Hansons and star of TV’s Bargain Hunt and Antiques Road Trip, said: ‘I regularly visit clients’ homes to assess antiques for potential consignment to auction.

‘I’d completed my visit and was sitting in my car, about to drive off with a wave, when the couple asked if they could show me one more thing.

‘They disappeared into the garage. Usually I don’t expect too much but this was very different.

‘What was placed into my hands was a magical find – a rare Chinese object dating back to the late 17th or early 18th century. I instantly recognised it as a libation cup. It was beautifully carved out of rhinoceros horn and displayed intricate detail.

The unique vessel was found in a Cotswolds garage (Picture: SWNS)
The unique vessel was found in a Cotswolds garage (Picture: SWNS)

‘The honey-caramel object is from the Kangxi Period (1662-1723) of the Qing Dynasty. It would have been crafted just after the Ming period.

‘Rhinoceros horn libation cups were used for communal drinking at important ceremonial occasions in Chinese scholarly circles.’

Mr Hanson explained the cups were considered to be magical objects, as the rhinoceros horns were thought to contain aphrodisiac properties.

He added: ‘It was believed the horn would change colours to alert a drinker to the presence of poison.

‘It represents victory. Its special place in Chinese culture enhances its importance and value.

‘Though called libation cups, these vessels would have been primarily used for display, accompanied by beautifully crafted hardwood stands.’

It remains to be known exactly how much the unique cup will fetch when it goes up to auction.

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