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H4264 Gold scales in case, brass / steel / ivory / wood, maker unknown, China, 1850-1900. Click to enlarge.

A set of Chinese scales

Made in China, Asia, 1850-1900.

These scales are of interest as they are a reminder of the long history of Chinese settlement in Australia and of the value placed on even very small amounts of gold. Commonly used by Chinese miners and storekeepers at a time when goods were often paid for in gold, they were designed to be highly portable.


Object No.


Object Statement

Gold scales in case, brass / steel / ivory / wood, maker unknown, China, 1850-1900

Physical Description

A Chinese steelyard scale consisting of a ivory scale rod with a brass pan and weight, all stored in a varnished wooden case that is shaped like a violin. The case consists of two halves with the lid screwed to the base of the case at one end. The lid swivels open to reveal areas that have been hollowed out to fit the rod, weight and pan. A circle of plaited cane slides up and down the handle of the case and acts as a lock.The ivory scale rod has black dots marking off the weight. The brass pan is joined to the rod with four strings and the detached rectangular weight is also attached to string.


Chinese characters have been written in black on the front of the case.



25 mm


325 mm



China, Asia 1850-1900



Scales like this were used to weigh gold and are often linked to the Australian goldrushes. They were also used to weigh small amounts of medicinal herbs and opium.


Credit Line

Gift of J I Lavis, 1940

Acquisition Date

21 June 1940

Cite this Object


A set of Chinese scales 2018, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 7 December 2019, <>


{{cite web |url= |title=A set of Chinese scales |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=7 December 2019 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}
This object is currently on display in Collection Gallery 2 at the Museums Discovery Centre.

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