State attorney general to investigate antique store
The probe was announced yesterday, a day after The Seattle Times reported that a teapot and a tile described as Chinese antiques at Thesaurus Fine Arts turned out to be fakes worth only a fraction of their selling prices.
The report also quoted several customers as saying their expensive purchases had turned out to be fakes.
“We’re at the very earliest stages right now,” said Christopher J. Jarvis, a spokesman for the state legal agency. He would not elaborate.
Steven Ng Sheong Cheung, who calls himself an adviser to Thesaurus and refused to say who owns the shop, insisted the items purchased by a reporter are antiques.
He suggested The Times or a shipping service that was used to send the items to two laboratories must have re-fired the objects, which could alter the results of tests to determine how old they are.
Phone messages left at the store Sunday and yesterday went unanswered. According to a sign on the door, the store is closed Mondays and Tuesdays.
The gallery, which opened in 1998, sells contemporary paintings but specializes in antiquities and offers some items for sale on the eBay Internet auction site.
eBay has no plans to suspend Thesaurus, spokesman Chris Donlay said.
“There’s not much we can do until we hear from law enforcement,” Donlay said. “We can’t be experts in Chinese antiques or any other kind of item.”
The Times said a reporter paid $1,900 last fall for a ceramic teapot that was described as being from the Tang Dynasty and $315 for a pottery tile listed as from the Ming Dynasty.
Both pieces came with certificates of authenticity from scientific laboratories in Hong Kong, but thermoluminiscence tests at Oxford Authentication in England and Daybreak Archaeometric Laboratory in Connecticut indicated neither was more than 130 years old and both might be newly made, the newspaper said.
The store offered refunds for both pieces when shown the new test results, The Times reported.