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What decides the price of lacquerware?


The products that are created with the use of lacquer are called “shikki” (lacquerware). However, even if there are items that look exactly the same, the price of the lacquerware can vary significantly. So, what determines this difference in price?


Actually, the material used or the time and effort devoted by the craftsman vastly varies depending on the lacquerware and this is reflected in the price.


Differences in lacquerware due to the material used
Even if items are sold as lacquerware in a similar manner, different ingredients and materials are used in most cases. For instance, wood is mainly used in lacquerware. However, if it is an inexpensive lacquerware, it is most likely made of synthetic resin instead of wood.


Materials used for lacquerware are divided into the following three categories:


• “Natural wood”, natural trees
• “Natural wood artifact”, a mixture of wooden powder and resin
• Complete resin (plastic)


Plastic products enable mass production thus reduction in price. On the other hand, in the case of natural wood, the material cost is expensive, and it takes more time and effort as each one is made by a craftsman. Because of this, the lacquerware made of natural materials will be more expensive.


Here is how to distinguish. When you submerge lacquerware in water and release the object, the natural wood products will rise to the surface. However, the resin products will remain under the water.


Check the material used for its undercoating
There is a step called “shitaji” (undercoats) before the lacquer is applied. The shitaji stage will be the base of the layers of lacquer coatings.


At this shitaji stage, “the mixture of lacquer and powder” is used. However, sometimes persimmon tannin is used in place of lacquer. If lacquer is used, the finished product will be durable, but if persimmon tannin is used for the undercoats, the product will be less solid.


However, the one with persimmon tannin will have a lower price although any restoration work might be difficult with this type of undercoat.


Check the coating material used
Lacquerware usually means an item with layers of lacquer. However, the reality is that there are many lacquerware that use a synthetic resin coating.


Lacquer is difficult to handle and it needs to be rested in a special shelf overnight just for the drying process. Additionally, it takes a lot of time because you need to apply lacquer over and over again to build up multiple layers. In order to resolve these issues, a synthetic resin coating is available, which is a coating material developed with a similar sheen as lacquer.


With the use of a synthetic resin coating, a white color can be created, which is not possible with natural lacquer. Additionally, it can also lower the price.


Not all lacquerware necessarily uses natural materials. There are also lacquerware that do not use lacquer at all. In Japan, you may find a ¥100 lacquerware item as well as one that is quite expensive although they are the same in size.


If you would like to obtain “real” lacquerware, please pay careful attention to the materials used, the undercoats, as well as the coating material. When the products are different in price even if they look the same, it might be because of the fact that the inexpensive one uses synthetic resin coating or persimmon tannin for its undercoats.


The price of lacquerware varies depending on how much you care about the invisible part of lacquerware. Vibrant decorations are not the only factors that determine the price of lacquerware.

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