OK. Thank you for the responses. The item in question is specifically an instance within a schematic so I can do as you say and just save specific properties required to reproduce the item (brute force but it works alright).
I'm curious, could you do something like create a temporary cellview and the set the cellView property of the instance you are "deleting" so that it moves to the temporary cellView?
tempCvid = A new schematic
inst = some schematic instance
-> db.....the original schematic Cvid
inst->cellView = tempCvid
Message: *Error* unknown: (DB-370034): dbSetq: Cannot set attribute - cellView
Doesn't look like this is possible.