Early bird Christmas shopping alert: Shard Box in Ritan. Or if you know anyone getting married soon. It's nothing new, but covers all the bases for things old, borrowed, and blue.
Shard Box opened in 1985 with a simple but brilliant business plan: pick up the pieces of Ming and Qing ceramics that were smashed-on-command during the Cultural Revolution and re-purpose them into custom-made jewelry boxes. Do the same for discarded gems, jade, and coins, turning them into jewelry. There couldn't be a tidier metaphor for the '80s thrust of re-contextualizing a spurned ancient past into a new paradigm of enterprise capitalizing on that very past. And Shard Box does it beautifully. As they put it in their mission statement: "The Shard Box is not only a collection of antique porcelain, but also a collection of Chinese history."
Shard Box bounced around a few locations in the Ritan Park area before settling into their current shop at #1 Ritan Bei Lu in 2012. Thirty years strong, they've found no scarcity of caches of otherwise useless Qing sherds lying around Beijing's adjacent countryside. In addition to ornate boxes of various shapes, sizes, and prices, Shard Box also sells a wide selection of handmade, custom-designed jewelry. (I was there to pick up some long-delayed wedding bands. 5,000rmb for a pair of simple, 18k gold rings with interior letter engraving, if you're in the market.)
According to the jeweler on site during my visit, who elected to be cited as "Peter", Shard Box's revenues are about evenly split between the boxes and the jewelry. But there are plenty of other cool things to cop at Shard Box for anyone on your gift list: jade statues, iron pigs, old-timey coins, happy Buddha guys, wooden dragon pieces, lamps, pill vials, et al...
When I asked Peter if their clientele was mostly tourists, he laughed and said, "No way dude." (I'm paraphrasing.) "Mostly locals. Sometimes visiting dignitaries or CEO's of multinational corporations." Then he pointed me to their wall of fame, which proudly displays the two best recent US ex-presidents and the cyborg wife of the worst:
So, yeah. Shard Box. Step up your Qing swag, gear up for your niece's birthday, or just treat yourself to a piece or two of uniquely Beijing flair at a reasonable price.
Shard Box is located at #1 Ritan Bei Lu, near the corner with Dongdaqiao Lu. They're open daily from 9am-7pm.