ADVICE, BACKGROUND, HINTS & TIPS
WHAT IS ANTIQUE
Until about 1870, the word 'antique' was use to describe things appertaining to ancient Greece and Rome - what we now call
antiquities - while what we term antiques were / known then as curios or curiosities. From then until about 1980, an antique came to mean any
artifact over' 00 years old, though purists have set earlier, arbitrary datelines, such as the long-revered 1830.
Since 1980, the unofficial trend has been. towards defining an antique as anything made before the outbreak of the Second
World War. The pre-war world was in many ways very different from the one we live in
today, and in taking 1940 as the cut-off point, this book recognizes that there is now a serious 1 collectors' market in early 20thC furniture.
Designers and craftsmen are disinclined to recognize time barriers. They borrow ideas from all kinds of sources, and the wise
collector or home-maker likewise cultivates eclectic taste, discreetly mixing together pieces from many places and different periods, not forgetting the hi-tech equipment of the present day - some of which is undeniably elegant.
TOWN AND COUNTRY
Mixing furniture of different periods and nationalities is a fairly safe bet, so long as the pieces exhibit roughly the same degree of sophistication. Country cousins do not
always mix happily with city types. It is not a matter of money. Vernacular furniture often finds itself out of place in an aristocratic ambience, even though it can now cost as much, and in some cases more, than its ormolu-mounted
equivalent. A good oak Welsh dresser of around 1800 can cost as much as a Sheraton mahogany side-board of the same date; a well-carved French Provincial commode can fetch as much as one made by a Paris
ebonite, while a simple Shaker sewing chest can bring more at auction
in the USA than the rest of them put together.
Heed these tips on antique furniture -- Country furniture is a specialized subject, and those attracted to it are well advised to seek out dealers and auctioneers with a detailed
knowledge of their regional types. The same applies to sophisticated, mainstream furniture. There are still a few dealers surviving with an
encyclopedic knowledge that covers just about everything from fine furniture to vintage cars, but even they will admit, under pressure, that they can no longer keep up with I market fluctuations. Specialization is the order of the day.
Inexperienced buyers, armed only with a smattering of book-learning and driven by a
hunger for a home furnished with antiques, often payout substantial sums for pieces that
take their fancy, but which carry no worth-while guarantee. At least until they have acquired a good working knowledge by dint of studying the things themselves, as well as by
reading books. Buyers should ask themselves whether it might not be better to
pay a little more - even a little too much - for the right thing, guaranteed by a reputable expert, than to grub around for so-called
bargains that turn out to be 'fake'. Generally speaking, a
detailed invoice from an established dealer is a much safer form of protection than any
description in an auctioneer's catalogue.
The larger firms of auctioneers retain specialists in various fields, who are willing to give advice if it is sought, but the laws affecting the sale of goods by auction vary greatly from country to country and are often very vague.
The salerooms do, however, provide splendid opportunities for examining furniture in detail by taking out drawers and turning things upside down in a cavalier fashion that would annoy any self-respecting dealer, if it were to be attempted in his gallery without prior permission.
WATCH OUT FOR LEATHER
If done properly, the hand-antiqued process on leather furniture lasts a near lifetime and does not crack -- the glazing compound produces this durability. What this means to you is simply this -- leather can be made to "look" antique fairly easily. This makes it extremely difficult for any novice to identify antique pieces with original leathers.
Too much has been made in recent years of the 'investment potential' of antiques. It is true that, for the most part, they have
performed very well indeed in the long term, but no one can be sure that prices are
going to rise without check. Some will fall from time to time, either because a fashion changes or for extraneous economic reasons; but antique furniture is always worth something, which is more than can
be said for many of its modern equivalents.
If, when it finally has to go, an antique shows a decent financial gain, that is a bonus. The real dividend on the original investment is the pleasure it has given. If profit is the main motive, the activity should be acknowledged as
speculation, with all the inherent risks that it entails. Speculation is for dealers, investment for collectors and
home-Iovers -- but seen in terms of quiet satisfaction rather than cash in the bank.