Because there is so much choice of material, there are specialist collectors for all sorts of advertisements from engraved 1700's trade cards to pottery Guinness toucans, labels, posters, large enamelled metal street 'puffs' as they became known in the 1800's, and shop signs such as barbers' poles and opticians' spectacles. There are calendars, book marks and paper weights, clothes hangers, shoe trees, thermometers, ashtrays, biscuit tins, bar furnishings and beer mats, and among the first attempts to sell through attractive packaging was the pot lid.
Human beings have been adorning or improving their looks since the creation of time. From the need to remove unwanted body hair, to applying facial powders and lipstick to improve ones look, beauty has always played an important role in fashion and human development. Beauty, hygiene and grooming equipment is generally a neglected area of collecting. No longer do we use or manufacture beautiful cut glass silver topped perfume bottles because they have been replaced by modern packaging. Be that as it may, modern packaging is functional and practical rather than beautiful and useful.
Coins and historic medallions have long been appreciated by collectors, many of them being considerable works of art in their own right, and all of them expressing a facet of history. Who, on finding a silver coin of the reign of George II, marked with the name LIMA, would be anything but fascinated to discover that the silver used in the making had come from captured treasures. The British privateers the Duke and the Prince Frederick, had taken two armed French ships in the North Atlantic and, on their return to Britain, the captured silver was immediately taken to the Tower of London where it probably supplied more than half the coinage of George II’s reign. Coins of this period, particularly the low denominations, are by no means overpriced. It is also surprising to note the prices obtained for silver coins of the 1200’s and 1300’s. A silver penny of the reign of King Edward I, for example, may still be purchased for well under £50.00, yet such a coin is in fact a medieval royal portrait that has been actually hammered individually by hand.
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You will notice we write or host articles and videos about the natural world. What you may ask has that got to do with antiques? Both the natural world and antiques need to be conserved, each in their different ways. Once we loose our antiques or the natural world, they have gone for ever, one could say they become as dead as a dodo.
One of the delights of antique furniture as with all practical antiques, is that it is a tangible link with the past. Sitting at a 1700´s desk, it is easy to imagine an earlier owner leaning on the same surface, struggling with an important letter. An ink stain on a well-rubbed edge adds to the sense of continuity. The way antique furniture carries the mantle of age is one of its appealing characteristics. Whilst ceramics and glass are little altered by the years, a piece of furniture changes in subtle ways, its timbers gradually shrink and mellow through handling, polishing and exposure. This slow maturing gives it a unique patina that cannot be matched – or reproduced – by the finest new pieces.
The idea of an object having value due to its age is only about 100 years old. It may only be a coincidence that this corresponds to when the legal definition of an antique was established. Before that, except in the case of Greek and Roman antiquities, items were judged purely on their artistic merit, or how fashionable they were, age meant very little. Very often furniture and other important works of art filtered down through the social strata as the landed gentry refurnished their houses. This frequently involved a complete updating, replacing not only the decorations but occasionally remodelling the fabric of the building as well. Some outdated or unfashionable furniture and other items were banished to the attic or the servants´quarters or simply dumped, to be recycled by the estate workers. Passed on down the centuries, and often altered on the way, these objects eventually find their way onto the market, sometimes without the current owner appreciating the value. The anticipation that an undiscovered treasure may be lurking in the next shop is part of the thrill of collecting.
Eating and drinking customs and habits help to define who we are. The Ale Warmer or Muller is a good example of a once common every day article that was developed to satisfy the desire for warm ale on a cold winter´s night. Even the tables where we eat our food and the chairs upon which we sit have evolved over time according to changing customs, habits and fashion. The very scenery and environment in which we live all influence who and what we are. Many will romanticise about the good old days, and for some they were just that, but for the many it was a time of drudgery, toil and hard work for little gain or financial reward.
Styles and fashions have been copied, altered and adapted since time began and American antiques are no different. The development and evolution of the USA gave rise to unique styles and pieces combining practicality, abundance or scarcity of materials along with native American Indian influence.
Why is a website dedicated to antiques, publishing articles about food and drink? The answer is simple and straight forward because many of the antique items we sell today are inextricably linked to or associated with the eating and drinking habits of our forefathers. To fully understand why certain items came into being, it is necessary to understand the etiquette involved with food and drink in days of yore. The Ale Warmer or Muller is a good example of a once common every day article that was developed to satisfy the desire for warm ale on a cold winter´s night. In our electrically lit, centrally heated homes, it is easy to forget the lonely ploughman who walked behind the horse all day in all weathers. The need for a warm beverage in front of a blazing open coal fire on a cold winter´s evening, and soaking up the warmth that was denied him during the day. Many will romanticise about the good old days, and for some they were just that, but for the many it was a time of drudgery, toil and hard work for little gain or financial reward.
The value of jewellery depends on the quality of the materials used to make it, its design, maker and condition, and the prevailing fashion and taste. Rare gems of the highest quality are usually a good investment because the political and physical problems involved in mining them and the scarcity of fine stones means that supply is unlikely to exceed demand. Diamonds are the exception as their supply is controlled by an international cartel to maintain prices, but demand can always be fulfilled so no dramatic rise in pieces is likely.
Metals are a natural and abundant resource that is both malleable and extremely durable, which makes them suitable for all manner of practical purposes. Pure metals, such as copper, iron, lead and tin, and various alloys including brass, bronze and pewter have been used around the world for thousands of years. Metals have played a significant role in the development of human civilization, with bronze and iron used to make early tools and weapons. Drinking vessels and utensils for making and eating food have been fashioned from metal since ancient times. Pewter and spelter were inexpensive alternatives to more precious metals.
The story of style can be said to be the tracing of the strands that mesh to give each age its distinctive look, from the skills and materials available, to the changes in life style and income from buyers zest for the new, to designers vision of beauty.