How old is an Antique?
Legally for import purposes, objects 100 years and older are not subjected to any Tariffs. A law was passed in 1930 establishing this precedent, which applies today. The law at that time considered the beginning of the “Machine Age”which was 1830, hence anything made before 1830 by hand was considered an antique. Lets look at anything over 100 ears old, including copies, intentional fakes, intentionally modified pieces and restored pieces
“How old is antique”, is as old as recorded time itself. The Romans copied the Greek Statues and at the time sold them to their citizens as “real” Greek statues. Now today we consider the 2000-year-old statues that were made then and copied after the Greek highly desirable and I might add very costly. We have an Italian bust item number 1269 on our website which is 17th/18th century. Busts such as these were made for the elite of the “Golden Age” of antiques, the late 17th and on into the 18th century. There have been well-documented stories of antiquity dealers breaking up Roman statues into parts where the parts are worth more than the sum.
“How old is an antique” becomes more of a question of a philosophical nature with more questions. A piece made in the 18th century that had a marble top and which was perhaps also later changed in the 18th century because it was either broken or the color of the marble was changed to match a fireplace in the room bears the question of a modified piece in the 18th century and if its authentic. Obviously anyone would rarely care as long as the changed marble still was hand cut and still followed the lines and the decoration of the piece. The question still goes on, what if the piece was modified in the 18th century either because something happened in its moving or perhaps it did not quite fit into the scale of another room and better yet, what if the piece was made by a master and yet altered by another master some 30 years later. Pieces such as these are sitting in museums today. Look at my website item number 088, a 18th century South German Commode that has never been touched since its birth in the 18th century, a pure and fine piece in the truest sense. I examined it for 30 minutes before I bought it, as I could not believe its untouched condition.
The question continues, “How old is an antique”, once a piece was made as in my first example of Greek Statue, these pieces were continually made up to and including today. The19th century is filled with some very fine copies of the 18th century pieces, but there are some tell tale signs that they are not 18th century. These tell tale signs take years in some cases of looking, touching and comparing, but today these 19th century 100 year old pieces are still considered antiques, but in the “style” of their earlier counterparts.
Years ago I was at a restorer’s work shop in Manhattan and he pulled open a draw and low and behold there they were, the stamps of some very famous 18th century cabinetmakers. Look at my chair item number 1270 to see a real 18th century French chair with its original stamp.
The question “how old is an antique” continues and will always continue because you always want to get what you are paying for whether it’s a 2000 year old Roman copy of a Greek marble statue or a 19th century copy of an 18th century chair. Dealers that are knowledgeable and honest are always willing to share their knowledge with their clients.
I will continue this discussion at a later date as we get into the 20th century and including the mid 20th Century (see our item number 1282), which is considered fine rare vintage. Today is tomorrow’s antiques.