Monday, January 12, 2009

How do you care for a fine antique?

There is a common misconception that all fine antiques need to be “babied” when used or shouldn’t be used at all. The truth is that most antiques were made to be functional and fine antiques have survived to this day despite and because of daily wear and tear. In fact, if it weren’t for the dirt, polish, waxes, and marks of thousands of days of use, a piece wouldn’t have the patina that is so sought after today.

Having said that, since color and condition are factors in determining the value of antiques, taking proper care of them is important.

If possible, a piece should not be exposed to direct sunlight and/or heating vents on a regular basis since this will lead to fading. Although fading can be corrected by a skilled restorer, it’s expensive and should only be a last resort. Also room temperature and humidity levels should be relatively consistent, since dramatic fluctuations can cause warping, splitting and lifting of inlays. Also, polished wood needs “feeding” which means using a paste wax polish and a soft dry cloth periodically; silicone based polishes (such as Pledge) should be avoided since they will dull and destabilize fine finishes over time.

Antique furniture should also be moved with care. For instance, a chair should be carried by the seat rail and not the arms or splats. Don’t carry furniture by its handles since often these are decorative only. Worm or insect holes add character to a piece and are not cause for alarm unless they make the piece structurally unsound or you see tiny piles of dust under the piece (these are signs of active woodworm and should be treated by an expert antique fumigator).

Shown below: A Pair of 18th Century Polychrome and Parcel Gilt Italian Arm Chairs
List price: $171,500 USD

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