SALE 3004B, 25 APRIL 2017, BOSTON

Lately Skinner has been selling a good quantity of Indian Kashmir shawls in each of its past rug auctions and this time twelve were presented. A late Dogra period one, lot 75, with a kind of rug design layout went for $1968, while lot 71, looking rather finely woven, with a black and blue center went for a rather surprisingly low price of $1169. The “Mughal” shawl panel, with an Islamic manuscript pattern went for $2706, a modest sum considering its rarity. It was a piece I bought more than 30 years ago.

The off-white moon shawl was nice if a bit stiff with it’s rather boring mosaic patterned center and quarter medallions. However, its ripe age of circa 1800 made it desirable to collectors ready to fork over $6765.

The last shawl to be sold was lot 76. Enigmatically it sold for a rather high price considering its quality was nothing to brag about. Its blue center was refreshing and the weave appeared to be quite acceptable but so was Lot 71. More strangely was the fact that the time spent on its bidding lastly not more than 20 seconds. From the opening price of about $1000 it jumped to its final bid of $3250 (+ comm), before the hammer abruptly came down. Correction: Just learned that this piece was not sold! Now that makes sense.

As most collectors know by now the main driving force behind the pricing of these Kashmir shawls are the Indian dealers who frantically search high and low for them in Europe and particularly in France where most of them hang out. There probably hasn’t been one French antique dealer who hasn’t yet been harassed by the incessant if not cloying demands of these mostly Delhi/Gujarati dealers. the mighty Dollar for the past 5 years at least has been trashing the rupee. As a result, Indian dealer decided that it was just too expensive for them to travel all the way to the US. Besides, finer shawls always seemed to pop up in France.

If you add to this phenomenon, the Demonetization that recently took place in India, It all added up to the perfect storm for crashing the kani shawl trade in India, not to mention a thousand other types of cash businesses that depend on the free movement of currency.