The en­dur­ing plea­sure of trea­sure

Country Life Every Week - - Contents -

AL­though Car­phone Ware­house, Star­bucks and Boots might be ban­ish­ing the shops par­o­died in Vic­to­ria Wood’s Acorn An­tiques from the high street, the demise of th­ese quirky fea­tures of British life is no symp­tom of a trade in cri­sis. Like so other many bricks-and-mor­tar busi­nesses, the an­tiques trade is evolv­ing; many deal­ers have re­treated to less ex­pen­sive premises, such as barns and ware­houses, or on­line, where they har­ness the power of web­sites and so­cial me­dia to reach an au­di­ence far wider and more re­spon­sive than the pop­u­la­tion of Manch­ester­ford.

In the mid mar­ket, the mil­len­nial gen­er­a­tion is dis­cov­er­ing that an­tiques are of­ten more in­ter­est­ing and bet­ter value than any­thing to be found in a depart­ment store and, in the higher ech­e­lons, deal­ers and auc­tion houses are be­ing boosted by both a buoy­ant mar­ket for qual­ity and a weak pound.

how­ever, the an­tiques trade is driven more by pas­sion than by mar­ket forces; aes­thetic ap­peal, qual­ity and prove­nance are far more nu­anced and sub­jec­tive than FTSE prices or an­a­lysts’ re­ports. And in an in­creas­ingly tran­sient, dig­i­tal world, they serve a role that is more vi­tal than ever be­fore: the tan­gi­ble, sen­sual and sen­ti­men­tal qual­ity of a much-loved posses­sion —what­ever its value—has the po­ten­tial to crys­tallise a mem­ory far more ef­fec­tively than any­thing that could ever be posted on­line or stored on a hard drive.

An­tiques also serve an­other im­por­tant pur­pose. It isn’t just the dig­i­tal on­slaught that’s made the world tran­sient—so has mass man­u­fac­ture. only a frac­tion that’s be­ing made in the early 21st cen­tury has the ca­pac­ity to make it to the 22nd. Even if we wanted to be­queath our flat­pack fur­ni­ture to our near­est and dear­est, the chances are that won’t stand the test of time in the same way as a gil­lows li­brary ta­ble or a Min­ton din­ner ser­vice, which so elo­quently ex­press the en­dur­ing power of crafts­man­ship and high-qual­ity ma­te­ri­als.

It is for this rea­son that, in this week’s Coun­try Life, we pub­lish, in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Christie’s, a guide to heir­looms that ex­plores the al­most in­fi­nite pos­si­bil­i­ties of fur­ni­ture, jewellery, paint­ings, sculp­ture, wine, watches and sport­ing guns that will not only give plea­sure to their own­ers, but will do the same for their heirs—and their heirs’ heirs.

the aim is not to give ad­vice on spec­u­la­tive op­por­tu­ni­ties, but sim­ply to high­light items that have the po­ten­tial to give in­fin­itely more plea­sure than a deposit ac­count or a buy-to-let prop­erty.

In ad­di­tion, there are de­scrip­tions by those who cher­ish more es­o­teric heir­looms, such as a lion-skin car­tridge bag, badges from hen­ley Re­gatta and a set of gold teeth. Al­though they might not have much com­mer­cial ap­peal, they have an al­most tal­is­manic power for their own­ers. Like the best heir­looms, they have the ca­pac­ity to en­cap­su­late hu­man bonds and that’s what makes them price­less.

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