Art & Antiques Market

Connoisseur’s GUIDE to Shopping for Antiques in London

Written by Aksel Ritenis

antiques-londonAn antique is an old collectible item. It is collected or desirable because of its age, rarity, condition, utility, or other unique feature. It is an object that represents a previous era in human society. Antiques are usually objects which show some degree of craftsmanship, or a certain attention to design such as a desk or the early automobile. The collecting of antique furniture is a particularly popular area of antiques due to the practical characteristics of these antiques. There are a number of different styles of antique furniture depending on when and where it was made. The most common include Arts & Crafts, Georgian, Regency and Victorian.

Another popular collecting item is antique vases. Starting with Lady Head vases that are relatively inexpensive to Fostoria bud vases (Depression Era glassware) and, of course, Oriental vases, including those from the Ming, Qing and Song Dynasties. These are extremely valuable vases and they are difficult to find, mainly because the owners are unwilling to part with such beautiful items. As with most valuable items, there are a lot of fakes which can be identified by searching for some specific marks. Marks of earlier periods have been used throughout the history of Chinese porcelain. Almost at the same time the Chinese invented porcelain, they invented “copies” – either to honour, or to deceive for financial gain. You can any day find a 20th century identical pair of bowls, one marked “made in china”, the other one marked “Kangxi Nian Zhi”. Marks are still one of the best means we have to identify the period during which a certain piece of Chinese porcelain is made, whatever the mark actually says. Correctly understood it is like the fingerprint of the potter and his time.


Do you know how to judge the value of antiques? Imagine that you have found IT: That antique domino set, the perfect Ming Dynasty vase, that Georgian desk and chair. It doesn’t matter what IT is, the next question is always the same: What is it worth? The answer will always be a range of value because there is no way to pin down exact value.

Before you open your wallet, you need to do some research. This is fun if you seriously enjoy antiques. Visit the dealers and look around, ask questions and examine pieces. Go to some auctions and see what things are really selling for. Soon you will develop a sense for price ranges and value, which will give you more confidence in your own decisionmaking when you decide to buy.

One persistent issue that is proving more and more problematic when judging the value of antiques is the issue of fraud. You will save yourself trouble by developing a relationship with a reputable dealer. Every year sees more and more fakes in the antique marketplace and buyers need to be familiar with the warning signs. These include:

• Signs of modern workmanship, such as electric tools, new materials and methods.

• No written guarantee of authenticity.

• The item looks too new.

• Poor workmanship.

The safest route is to have your own standards of proof and stick with them. That means that if a given piece does not live up to those standards, don’t buy it.


About the author

Aksel Ritenis

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