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Finders, Sometimes Keepers

Today, I have a good article from the greatest book, this book is “Old China / New Style Antique Furniture & Accessories 1780-1930,” in subject heading “Finders, Sometimes Keepers” Let’s see.

Antique give ultimate voice to the notion that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure – even if both men know exactly what they’re looking for.

Let’s say that two dealers in Chinese antiques are strolling together through a small city in northern China, and they stumble upon the same beat-up table, with only three-and-a-half legs left, for sale. They both identify it correctly as being 200 years old, but to one it’s worthless while to other it belongs in the display window of a shop in New York.

The second dealer will see a piece that can be repaired, refinished, nicely polished, and sold as a decorative antique that will share living space with a 19th century Italian painted table and a 20th century French Deco sideboard… both of which have also been restored.

The clients of this second dealer are designers and people who want to furnish their homes with pieces that have personality, craftsmanship, and enduring design, And since the pieces have to look good, the restorer is their friend.

But the clients of the first dealer are collectors, purists who will only buy a table in “found condition,” and the closer this “found condition” is to the original condition of the piece when it was in use, the more expensive it will be. Restoration to these folks is the boogey man; so a table with only three-and-a-half legs doesn’t have much value.

All antiques buyers fall somewhere between these two standard: purists who shun restoration and consumers who want an old piece that looks good. For some collectors, minor restoration is acceptable; for some consumers, too much restoration – a table with perhaps two legs replaced – is unacceptable

Most of us tent to the middle, “moderation in all things,” as the Roman writer Terence said. We like old pieces hat look good, and we’re willing to accept a moderate level of cosmetology to accomplish that goal, a finished appearance.

So we assembled this chapter to give readers a sense of watch some of this furniture looks like – pieces that appeal to both the collectors and the consumers – as they are found in China, before they head for the restoration shop.

Keep two things in mind:

1. Only a small fraction of a percent of antique Chinese furniture is suitable for the purists. The great majority of it has been abused and neglected for the last three decades and needs restoration at some level, if only to keep it from falling apart.

2. Skilled restoration does not mean returning the piece to its original condition. It means stopping the aging process, making the piece useable, preserving the patina (the personality – distress in the coloring, for example – that comes from aging), and enhancing its appearance through some sort of cleaning and polish.