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    Whats it worth


    Treasure Hunting and the Power of Research

    By Amy Lugten


    France has always had a reputation as a centre of culture, and certainly was and still is known as a repository of beautiful and classic furniture. There are wonderful examples of desks, bureaus, lamps, chairs and chaises to be found all over the world, including on the internet. I recently came across a furniture auction at Christie’s, which included a Napoleon III Ormolu Mirror by lauded craftsman Ferdinand Barbedienne, dating from the third quarter of the nineteenth century (http://www.christies.com/lotfinder/furniture-lighting/an-important-napoleon-iii-ormolu-mirror-by-5771047-details.aspx?from=salesummary&intObjectID=5771047&sid=a3302ae6-6d15-4983-80fd-0a1fc842ba7b). The mirror is in the Renaissance Revival style, which was in vogue in Paris at the time. It is ornate and in perfect condition featuring all the hallmarks of Renaissance symbolism: putti, fruit, foliage, flowers and ribbons.


    The final sale price was high and more than doubled the low estimate set by the auction house. Auction houses create a competitive atmosphere deliberately designed to fetch the best price for the vendor, and not necessarily the best price for the buyer. Antiques.co.uk, however, is designed to enable buyers to peruse items seamlessly and without pressure. This is perhaps why I was able to find a Large French Empire Mirror for a twentieth of the sales price of the aforementioned mirror at Christie’s.


    The mirror can be found here (http://antiques.co.uk/antique/Large-French-Empire-mirror). The ‘ormolu’ refers to the gilt or bronze detailing surrounding the mirror, which is a typical detail of mirrors of the period, and earlier. It gives the mirror a richness of detail that also complements the mahogany of the frame. This mirror, and others like it, also features a utilitarian design, including three draws underneath.


    There are some important guidelines to consider when searching for and viewing antiques. Firstly it is recommended that one actually likes the piece. Talk to many collectors, and often one of their key pieces of advice will be to like what you collect, otherwise you may surround yourself with pieces that don’t appeal to you. Secondly, with a view to acquiring something that may increase in value, it is important to keep a steady eye on the market for the piece you desire. Are Chinese pieces more desirable right now than African? Is the material of the item going to be made illegal, or come under scrutiny later on, which may then impact its value? And thirdly, if you like the piece and accept that its value may or may not increase, an important consideration is posterity. Wonderful antiques continue to become available because we as consumers and owners take such meticulous care of them, and if not, have them meticulously restored. It is very, very easy to love antiques, and to follow the trends is one thing, but to have an item you love is another.