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Lacquer Box Condition Rating System

Have you ever bought a lacquer box which looked great in the pictures but wasn't quite what you expected when it arrived in the mail? If you have, you are not alone. Boxes of all level of quality are being sold around the internet now and it is becoming increasingly difficult for both the novice and expert to separate the good from the bad. That is why we came up with the Lacquerbox Condition Rating System which has been designed to let you, the buyer,know more closely what a given box looks and feels like physically. It assigns a numerical rating (1-10) to the box in five categories, most of which are impossible to determine accurately when looking at a box on the internet, no matter how good the picture is. A total combined score is also given for each box.

One thing the rating system does not do is to assign a numerical rating on the beauty of the drawing or box itself - you have to be the judge of that!

Each of the specific categories which we rate are listed below, along with the questions we ask ourselves when assigning a numerical score.

Surface Condition (exterior)
Are there any significant scratches, bumps or other defects on the surface? How fresh is the outside layer of lacquer itself? Is it completely smooth or do you see down to the oil or egg tempera paint itself when looking at it closely? It is very difficult to score a perfect 10 in this and the next category since we are pretty conservative and the presence of the tiniest little bump will lower the score to 9.5.
Surface Condition on (interior/bottom)
When you open the box up, are there bumps or defects inside? Are there a lot of scratches on the bottom of the box?
Box Materials/Soundness
How well is the box put together? Does it feel substantial or a little chintzy? Does it feel like something that it will hold together for a long time or fall apart in some way after you buy it? Is it made from the traditional papier mache (dipped in linseed oil, baked in airtight ovens, etc.) or from one of the other materials they use? Note that a box can receive a perfect score of 10 in this category only if it is made of true papier mache and has no defects or problems. If we are not completely sure that a box is made from traditional papier mache (occasionally it's very difficult to tell), or if there are some flaws in the box, then we will assign a score 9.5 or lower.
Hinge and Lid Placement
Does the lid fit snugly, flush with the bottom of the box, or is it just a little crooked? If the box has a hinge, does the hinge hold the lid steady, or does it seem loose?
Is the box signed by the artist? A score of 10 is given to any work that is signed in full and 9.0 if it is not signed or has only initials. (Our own opinion is that a box with just initials on it is no better off than a box without a signature at all. That is, if there is no signature, the artist may have simply forgot, and we've seen gorgeous boxes without signatures. If a box only has initials, though, it means the artist didn't forget to sign it, but seemed to care only enough to put his initials.)

Supplementary information for Fedoskino boxes with mother-of-pearl inlay

(Not counted in total score)

Visibility of Edges for Inlay
How visible are the edges of the inlay? Placing mother-of-pearl into a box is trickier than you think! In the vast majority of the cases where there is an inlay, you will be able to see at least some of the edges of the inlay, particularly under low light and when you tilt the box to the side. It is usually not very noticable, though, and most people don't mind, particularly when they see the stunning effect that the mother-of-pearl can create.

Sample rating (found at end of description of each individual box:)

Lacquerbox Condition Ratings

Surface Condition(exterior) Surface Condition(interior/bottom) Box Materials/Soundness Hinge and Lid Placement Signature Total Rating Mother-of-pearl Condition
9.0 8.5 9.5 8.0 10.0 45 N/A

(Each category rated 1-10. For low scores, look for explanation in the description of box. In general, any total rating over 40 is excellent. For more information on rating system, click here.)

What the numbers equate to:

essentially perfect - or as close as humans can get
almost perfect - excellent score
much better than average - only the perfectionist will probably mind the very minor flaws or defects that are there
better than average - still a very good score
slightly better than average - better than most boxes you'll see if you go to Russia and shop at the open-air markets
average - some boxes better, some worse
slightly worse than average - problems in this category will probably bother some people
much worse than average - but if you love everything else about the box...
flaws or problems are substantial - don't give it to your wife on her birthday
many problems - destined to end up on Ebay (this is a joke, auction fans. No letters!)

Final Word

When looking at the boxes we sell, if it seems that we have very few falling below the average level, you are right! We try to be very picky about what we buy and look for only the best boxes at each price range. And remember, even if these ratings don't help and if you are disappointed with a box bought on our site, you still have the option to return an box within 30 days for a full refund on the price of the box!

Travelling to Baltimore or Washington, DC? Come see and purchase
from our collection in person. We have a special section for these items
inside our main store The Book Escape at 925 S. Charles Street in Baltimore.

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