Buy from established dealers
If you want to be certain that any antiques you buy are the “real deal”, buy from a dealer and check to see if they are a member of one of the two top UK trade associations, either the British Antique Dealers’ Association or the Association of Art & Antiques Dealers.
Invest only in things you like
You should invest only in antiques that you are happy to have in your home for years to come.
A spokesman for Miller’s Antiques Handbook and Price Guide said: “Although you will no doubt have some interest in the financial value of your collection, this should be seen only as a bonus. Just like any market, fashions and tastes change over time. This means that something that is not valuable now may become so in the future, and vice versa.”
Look for original untouched furniture
Furniture that hasn’t been restored, preferably with provenance, is likely to be among the best investments. John Hansord from Hansord Antiques said: “Look for small, useful pieces such as Georgian and Regency desks priced from around £5,000. Chests of drawers in early walnut of good colour and patina, priced from £10,000 to £50,000, are especially desirable. These should be seen as a 10-year investment.”
Choose prewar pieces if buying glass
If you are buying glass for investment purposes, look out for prewar Lalique items, as this will mean they have been designed and overseen by René Lalique himself. Be wary of signs of over-polishing or damage, as this will have an impact on value.
Mark West, a specialist glass dealer, said: “Eighteenth-century English glass at the top end is still a good buy. Large sculptural items from the late 19th century through to Art Deco are a good investment, having seen gains of probably up to 50pc in three years.”
Stick with big name jewellery designers
Dealers advise going for signed pieces by major designers such as Cartier, Tiffany or Van Cleef & Arpels if you can afford it. Rather than being tempted by what’s popular now, they suggest trying to spot the next big thing; for example, natural pearls went up dramatically five years ago, but Mediterranean coral is starting to go up now.
Look for rare items
Rare items are usually the most valuable, so invest in antiques that are unusual. Anthea Gesua of Anthea AG Antiques, which specialises in jewellery, said: “Look for the quirky and something with an edge, something that will be noticed, such as animals, an unusual shape or real craftsmanship.”
Beware of fakes
If you suspect something is a fake, resist the temptation to buy until you can get confirmation that the piece is authentic.
A spokesman from dealer Van Kranendonk Duffels, which specialises in European and American antique jewellery, said: “An expert will be able to tell if pieces from different periods have been put together, which does happen. Anyone checking jewellery must have a loop [eye glass] to be able to see properly.”
Watch out for signs of restoration
Restorers use clever techniques to repair antiques, which can easily go unnoticed by the untrained eye. Mr Hansord said: “With furniture there are some simple giveaways to look for, such as obvious use of machinery or tools not available when the piece was made – bandsaw blade marks, for example.
“If you buy a piece with original colour and patina it is much less likely to be restored as French polish and waxed finishes can hide restoration.”
Remember to factor in auction costs
If you buy antiques at an auction house, you will need to pay a “buyer’s premium” on top of the cost of the item you’ve bought. This will be a percentage of the final hammer price.
Insure your collection
You will need to insure any antiques you buy, but premiums needn’t be expensive if you have only a few items. Steve Smith, managing director of specialist insurance broker Smith Greenfield, said: “A £5,000 chest of drawers would cost about £10 to £20 to insure on the fine art section of a typical mid or high-net-worth policy.”
Bear in mind that many standard contents policies will require items to be specified if they are worth more than a defined amount, such as £1,000. Specialist high-value policies, however, tend to need items to be specified only if items are worth more than £5,000, £15,000 or even £25,000 individually.
Make sure you keep an up-to-date valuation of the items insured. Andrew Boldt, managing director of brokers Insurance Tailors, said: “For particularly high-value items, insurers may require evidence of a valuation before they will offer cover in the first place.”