Archive for Top_Ten_Antiques_to_Buy_in_Belgium

Can Antiques Survive Kids

Posted in Antiques, Tracking the Marvelous with tags , , , on May 22, 2009 by dutchnduchess

As a dealer I often  meet couples with young children who seek a solution to be able to have antiques and children in the same household.  What advice is there to successfully manage this ?

We change things all the time? whether it’s  tires on a car or seasonal clothing or bigger things like homes.  The first step is consider  ridding oneself of unwanted inventory. Have a look at what you’ve got that might reap any proceeds and parlay them large or small into the antiques budget. Coordination is not always perfect, but luckily you don’t have to do all at once.  With online auctions, free listings and a company bulletin board or two, this task has become a lot easier.

The next step is to inform yourself along the way. This can be done by aesthetics or pure function or both. Antiques don’t have to dominate a decor. Start small and have fun with the historical background of items. Some of them are quite fascintating and tell a story how life was in a different time.  This can be a wonderful event to share with children, who sometimes become fascinated with with  history as a subject in school or find reason to visit a museum or adapt ideas easier by relating to progression of development . Collectors come in all shapes and sizes as well what they collect. Many of the experts on popular  programs about antiques confess their interest grew from early exposure that fascinated their interests or attached them to a loved one with fondness and enthusiasm. It’s something the whole family can do, as there is adequate subject matter and items to please everyone.

As far a furniture goes, we all have our early attic or early American dorm room decor. It can be liberating as well as a blatant sign of maturity when one wants to do away with this ‘era’ in our decorating life.  In my case, it was  probably the one time that fear of the unknown did not exist simply because almost anything would be an improvement at least when considering looks. I have to admit it was functional until the bottoms fell out of the drawers and the sides of the bookcases grew gradually V-shaped, ending in a callamitous sound in the night that could have been much more disastrous picking a 2-yr old out of the book rubble.

LouisPhillipeCabinetTo look for kid proof  furniture look for sturdy, well built items. A small chest can be a wonderful place to stash toys as well as bank Dad’s feet before the sofa. The cost for such items make them attractive items to start with antiques. There come in many different sizes, kinds of wood and they run the gamut from carved to panelled to smooth and basic. In addition to storage, if the top is flat they make wonderful informal table top display or seating areas. Older one will have inside the top on one side wall an extra box-like addition, used in former times to store candles.  Before buying you’ll want to check hinges are tight and sturdy and inquire about keys and locks and if advised from the dealer they are in working order, check to make sure.  Look for dust or powdery wood piles that might signify woodworm.  If symptoms are evident, this can be treated and should be taken into consideration. Unless the pesky insects have  been long busy and actually weakened or completely eaten away  the form, this is not as serious as it might sound. Woodworm is fairly common and there are sure ways to quickly eradicate this problem. Top reproduction houses spend many hours trying to train staff to  how and when to recreate such characteristics in many styles of furniture and items in modern day use and charge extra for this ‘look’.

Of course there ia a hierarchy of items and price scale. On the higher end if you have to buy or may you have to chance to acquire one from a family member, it’s possible to consolidate the function of smaller pieces into one bigger one, such as an oversized cabinet. This can easily convert a fairly busy room into a minimalist setting with one big show stopper clutter holder or the family room entertainment center.  These often have secret compartments and range in two basic storage solutions. One has big rectantular space in the cavity while others have doors at the top and drawers at the bottom. These have advantages of moving as they are in components and are assembled unbelievably simply.

Another smart addition for young families is the single door cabinet which comes either with a clear glass or with a mirror fitted in the door. This versatility of this piece is a charming addition to its exterior looks. Use them for dishes or books or collections of things you want to display (glass front) or  stash clothing in them by hanging space or on shelves (mirror front). As you might imagine, they go just about anywhere and exist in formats that fit in modern day ceiling heights. Your purchase checklist should include checking  locks and keys are in tact, ask if the owner/dealer already has the alternative glass or mirror depending on which is in it now, if the mirror is beveled, and if there are shelves, that they are adjustable and made of strong wood that does not bow under duress of books or other heavy items.

Antiques and small collectables are available at markets. in stores, on the internet and sometimes just by keeping a good eye peeled at the right moment. Programs that chronicle antiques history and values are full of individuals who acquired goods from unlikely places but always started out with a little desire and grew gradually into a keen interest.  Enjoying childproof antiques can be enjoyed by many who are far from expert but simply practice the first rule of buying any antique item– because you like it and wouldn’t mind having it around for a long time–just like (most) kids!



Posted in Antiques, Tracking the Marvelous with tags , , , on May 20, 2009 by dutchnduchess

pewterRanking number 4 on the Top Ten Antiques to Buy in Belgium, pewter takes a special place in my heart. My father was passionate about collecting and  I came to know it and love it through him. Pewter is a combination of two metals that has been has been used for table service since dining utensils and  plates were begun to be used.  Often pewter is  the base metal for silver and silverplated items, a variety of vessels are collected not unlike those designed of silver such as tankards, tea and coffee sets, platters , plates  not to mention common utilitarian items for cooking or ingesting food,  or creating medicinal potions and soups in the field during harvest or wartimes and innocence of keeping soften foods warm enough  for baby bunting.

 Age and patina
The easiest way to determine old pewter is to search for stamps that give a variety of clues depending on the item and the age. If the bottom already says  ‘etain’   or 96% whatever, or has a modern company name on it–give it up. It’s made yesterday. 

You want to find a stamped rose with a rise in the metal with clear edges that in the trade, ‘stand proud’  and are not soft and rounded which  usually shouts fake. Look for symbols that signify certain places, assay offices, years or factories without using words.  Special books with page after page of symbols and codes for various countries are necessary to pinpoint the origin of older patinized pewter or ‘tin’ [Dutch] or Etain [French pieces.  

Paired with patinized oak, pewter looks very aristocratic in modern households and takes one back to simpler times when mealtimes and families gathered without distractions such as ipods, tv’s sports clubs or other technologies that connect us in distance but separate us  the immediate environment- like  two people in a car and both on the cell phone.  Pewter is relatively soft metal and therefore prone to scratches from knife marks and rim ripples from  common and practical usage. Aged pewter has a warmth in the patina that looks especially nice on dark oak. Precautions
Pewter is faked profusely but it is has not been in the popular upswing for several year thus while experts can spot signs of falsehood a mile away there are scrupulous and even  well meaning vendors  who are oblivious that they  are offering  fakes for  unreasonable asking prices and coversely those who ask low prices for really old and valuable pewter!  Information is power and before any purchases are made, I suggest you visit a few exhibitions and ask a lot of questions while literally holding the good stuff in hand and getting a feel for the mark, the color and form that leads to it unmistakeable beauty only found in the authentic patinized examples of pewter.


The rarest pieces are found from the time period around Rembrandt and the newest are well marked on the bottom with all kinds of finishing suitable for dishwashing.
Americans think immediately of Paul Revere and the days of the Revolution but pewter was a vital part of the pub and familial social scene. Even  today with new metals that mimic pewter and can be used in the dishwasher.  Getting back to the antique sort, …..although it has a simple elegance, historically it was a commonly in  daily use as evidenced in the rollicking good times depicted in quaint outdoors gatherings in Frans Hals paintings.  Pewter vessels, plates, spoons, serving utensils , embossed or repousse plates , rigglework decoration are prized items to the collector., curator and decorator alike.

Brass Chandeliers

Posted in Antiques, Tracking the Marvelous with tags , , , on May 20, 2009 by dutchnduchess

If you’ve ever looked inside one of the many cathedrals in Europe or noticed classical paintings of European interiors, (i.e. Vermeer), you’ve seen prime examples of item number 6 on our Top Ten List of Antiques to Buy in Belgium.– the  Brass Chandeier.  It is characterized by a middle baluster shaped support, (not unlike the wooden decorative shape in a stair railing) and radiating arms that scroll into elegant S-shaped extentions with candleholders  accompanied by a drip saucer.  The range in height can be from 1, 2 or 3 tiers and in diameter from 4 up to 24 arms.  Similar style and quality sconces or ‘appliques’  have three arms and look marvelous below a small to medium mirror

First, the weight of an older one is a fast way to note its quality and age, as modern copies are mostly hollow and tinny in comparison. You might be saddened by a second obvious sign, a possible energy conversion to either gas or electricity giving way to uncharacteristic drilled holes and/or encased wiring. The best examples will be without electricity but if conversion is done and is desired, check that it might need rewiring either for reasons of safety or international currency if relocating. In this case the price should reflect a ‘not-in-original-state reduction and if it is in original state, consider yourself a super sleuth and very, very lucky. If funds allow this is truly a no brainer, and you’ll just have to accept that everyone will want to have all future Christmas dinner and special entertainment at your place.The ambience of a beautifully lit chandelier with its Vermeer reflections is truly priceless.

Age & Patina
The age of a brass chandelier (unlike the glass one) can be determined by how shiny or dull the surface brass appears ( sans dust and grime) and its speed of tarnishing to a warm patina after polishing. The older, the shinier might be a rule of thumb if quantum leaps came with the dealers package, so then you can revert to Plan B and indoctrinate your expert eye. Look to see if the arms are ‘pinned’ into the (shiny, solid) central support (16 c), afixed with screw threads or bolted (mid-to end 19 c).

Hanging and Support
As with all lighting with a drop feature or cascade of tiers, brass chandeliers should be measured for placement, adequate ceiling height, tall heads in the family will not enjoy close encounters of this gorgeous albeit robust handbanger. Make sure the support for this beautiful albeit possible headbanger is sufficient. The length of its drop can easily be adjusted with matching brass chain or a non-matching one, covered in velvet, silk or linen as appropriate to the decor. it might be good to mention that there are matching accessory sconces or ‘appliques’ [French] possible to compliment the room as well. Dealers and collectors love this chandelier for the ease of shipping and moving it from one place to another. Oversized shipments are usually priced by volume so being able to stack the arms makes transport easy as well as economical. Antiques do not have taxes levied or incur custom charges so make sure you get a certificate with your purchase.

Polishing once a year is adequate for brass chandeliers as part of the fun is letting the brass repatinate and show its continued abilty grace the most elegant of occasions. The ease of cleaning, is in tandem with the ease of dismantling the arms, so the pinned model wins. Just remove the pins, polish and re-pin, never having to remove the full weight of the chandelier. For the others, there is basically the same maneuver, but more time consumption can be expected due to the slower dismantling or inability to dismantle the arms separately. Still, besides its aesthetic beauty, the practicality of being able to remove candle wax without climbing a ladder, is a redeeming quality soon forgotten. The unsurpassed warmth and romantic atmosphere generated in any weather condition by this king of lighting fixtures adds a marvelous touch of European craftsmanship and history to any occasions. Whether placed over a refectory table, high ceiling foyer or conservatory with pool in view, it turns into a showpiece chameleon in a range of rustic and formal decors.


Posted in Antiques, Tracking the Marvelous with tags , , on April 29, 2009 by dutchnduchess
 Top Ten Antiques   to Buy in Belgium
French Palm D'or Lamp Base, ready for rewiring and selecting a new lampshade

French Palm D'or Lamp Base, ready for re-wiring and selecting a new lampshade



No. 3

Lamps can add a small personal touch or become  the main attraction, depending on the scale of a room. Take for example a small office with a large desk, appointed with and interesting base topped off by a red lampshade. 
And you may ask what for an interesting lamp base would I be scouting?  Pieces or pairs of things you can easily have made into a lamp but also one of a kind bases that started out very elegant, lost their glory and  just lack a new owner with a creative spark and little elbow grease to shine it up like silver plated candlesticks. For the rustic or informal look we like French confit pots (warrants another blog, (just google for now) or ceramic whisky kegs with likewise rustic fabric on the lampshade like larger weave linen. For student rooms and and music enthusiast, convert a  trumpet or clarinet  picked up at flea markets or a brocante for a song.  Changing an antique object into a lamp is actually not such a great deal and provides you with a unique decoration at reasonable cost. A little warning however. If, for instance, you decide to have a valuable vase made into a lamp base, please make sure the vase itself is not altered or damaged with serious loss of value as a result. For valuable items like this, special techniques are available which are always reversible.  


Old lamps and lighting found at  brocantes often still have their original wires, fittings and plugs. Please realize these lamps may have been out of use for many years. As corroded wiring and pre-1960 plugs and fittings can cause electric hazards it is highly recommended to have your local (antiques) restorer or electrician to have a look at it before you actually put the plug in the power. Bringing an old lamp up to today’s safety standards is a relatively inexpensive exercise and having this done now provides you with a lamp that can be used world wide. Lamps done in Belgium are prepared for 220volts but work perfectly in the countries with 110volts. The one thing you may have to change locally are the plugs (or use adaptor NOT transformer) and of course you need light bulbs with the voltage of your specific country.

Local dealers will also be able to assist you with finding the perfect lampshade. Many stores in Belgium offer a wide variety of shades readily available for your specific lamp style, but even so you can opt for having a lampshade made to your liking. The advantage of going this route is that you are in control of exact shape and color to match your specific lamp or even the decor of your room. Having a shade made to your liking will not cost an arm and a leg and the eventual additional cost is easily compensated by the fact that you have a unique one of a kind item. Always allow for a couple of weeks incase you decide to have an old or antique lamp re-done. All may sound to add up seriously, but new, quality lighting is expensive and having an old or antique lamp re-done rewards you with having something vintage and quality which you know is safe today without the feeling you have one of the millions sold at the mega store.

My favorite lamp in Belgium is the 40’s Palm D’or lamp. Regularly found in flea markets, these lamps were designed after those used in hotels in Cannes and Nice. They are recognized by he 24 carat gilt palm leaves in the middle emanating from a block-shaped base, standing minimally about 20 inches tall. The base material may vary from black metal, chrome steel and some rarer with Baccarat crystal. They can look grim when at the market, but after restoration they are fantastic and stand proud in formal as well as in a contemporary decor. This lamp base when  topped off with a black (outside) and gold metallic (inside) shade, rimmed with a thin piping on the edges for a “tres chique”  can easily become the crowning  jewel in any room.