CARE AND PRESERVATION OF ANTIQUES IS AN ART IN ITSELF
Desk; roll-top form above a base cabinet with a series of drawers and original iron hardware; #713 in catalog; signed with red decal; 60 inches by 46 inches; $9,200. Photo courtesy of Treadway Gallery.
You come home after a long day and find your Louis XVI table marinated in water, a vase holding the spring flowers oozed like a fountain all over the top and the veneer is a mess.
What do you do?
Just like old friends, antiques have to be fussed over and handled lovingly. Ignorance, indifference and carelessness represent the beginning of the end for friendships as well as antiques. With a little forethought, this didn’t need to happen.
Chances are you already need a restorer for your table. Trying to fix it without an expertise in furniture repair is a mistake. You risk destroying the value completely.
How could this have been prevented?
You could have had a piece of glass made to fit the entire tabletop as a safeguard against watery blunders. As you can see, veneered furniture, and inlaid finishes such as marquetry react poorly to water, heat and humidity. All is not lost.
If this piece is restored honestly and professionally, it can maintain its value.
If you’re going to use heirlooms, protect them. Frequent dusting of old furniture is a must. Particles of dust act as an abrasive.
Use a clean dry cloth for the job. Don’t use detergents for cleaning. They stain. Furniture that has been waxed and polished over time usually only needs a light buffing.
Waxing every several months is plenty. A microcrystalline wax is a good bet for providing a workable coating for most woods. Stop in your local antique shop and ask what brand they recommend.
And then there’s the beautiful silver serving pieces you love but never have time to polish when company is on the way. Unless you’re devoted to polishing silver, store it in acid-free tissue or undyed cotton. The pieces will be protected from scratches and dents, and you’ll be amazed how long the shine holds.
Metal polishes should be used sparingly because they actually remove small amounts of metal. Use metal polishes only when necessary, and only on silver, brass and copper. Never put precious metals in the dishwasher. The salts and detergents stain and pit the surface.
Old bronze, spelter and lead sculpture usually has a beautiful, dark or greenish-brown patina. This patina is critical to the value of a piece. Don’t use solvent, metal polishes or water on them. Dusting is enough.
Bright lights and normal household conditions don’t affect ceramic and glass objects. But greasy fingers can leave permanent marks. Don’t pick up antique glass and ceramic by the handles. Support the base and reach for the soundest part. If you plan to use your favorite vase as a plant holder, put the plant in a separate container first, and then into the vase. This will guard against water stains.
If you’re hanging plates on the wall, use acrylic or plastic-coated fittings. You can find them in most china shops.
Avoid using commercial glass cleaners on stained and leaded-glass windows. The chemicals can act as a solvent on glass stained with colored varnish and can also damage varnished frames. Stick with a soft cloth and warm water. Add a few drops of methylated spirits and a mild household detergent to your liquid.
Think of yourself as a caretaker of your heirlooms. That way your beautiful things will be around for those who follow.
Q. Please send me the name of someone to write to about Barbie doll collectibles? I have two Barbie dolls dating back to the '50s complete with clothes and cases. Are they valuable? Barbara Shipley, Pa.
A. Two Barbies are sold every second somewhere in the world. Worldwide sales now top $1 billion a year. There’s no getting around the fascination with “Barbie.” The typical American girl between the ages of 3 and 10 owns an average of eight Barbie dolls.
Because so many Barbies were made they have to be in excellent-to-mint condition. The original packaging must also be in mint condition.
Barbie was first patented in 1958 by The Mattel Co. and the growing sales speak for themselves. Collectors prefer the Barbies made during the first 10 years of production. In the recent years, there has also been a growing interest in the clothing and accessories from this era.
For more information on Barbie, contact the Barbie Lover’s Club, 399 Winfield Road, Rochester, N.Y. 14622.
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