Chinese porcelain dealer Alberto Santos.

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1 When and how did you get your start?

October 1, 1979. I arrived in the UK in March 1975 and had to work for somebody else for four years until having permission to start a business. I emptied my flat of all the disparate small things accumulated during that time and rented a 1 x 1.5m booth at the Hypermarket in Kensington High Street.

Two years later I moved to Grays and another two years after that I opened my first and only shop off Kensington Church Street, almost opposite Marchant. It closed in June 1999 as the market changed. Since then, I have participated in fairs mainly in the US as well as Hong Kong and Beijing.

2 What is your area of focus?

For the first 30 years it was Chinese export porcelain. For the last 10 it has been Chinese taste pieces. The switch was prompted above all by the introduction of a 15% import duty in the US on Chinese antiques, later reduced to 7.5%. That was coupled with an easing of interest in Chinese export porcelain all over the world.

3 What is one great discovery you’ve made?

A pair of cisterns and covers from the 17th century which were catalogued as 19th century. They were found at a major European auction house with a long description on how the attribution was done. Because in the past I had sold similar pieces there was no need to do so, but because they had been ‘stained’ I decided to have a TL test at The Oxford University lab in order to sell the pair without any doubts.


Qing dynasty Chinese plate decorated in vibrant famille rose enamels, which has to the back a red wax seal with the name Duveen, Liverpool. Santos recently sold it for a high four-figure sum.

4 What is something you couldn’t do without?

Kanxi blue and white porcelain. These pieces are from a very short 12-year reign in the middle of two of 60-year reigns, with a small output of porcelain. It is the pinnacle of enamelled porcelain manufacturing.

5 Real ale or espresso martini?

Red wine.

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