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How Antiques Work


Cleaning Antiques and Care
Christie's Employee, Sandra Nedvetskaia, carefully cleans a two-handled Campana vase, one of two, at Christie's Auction House in London, England.
Christie's Employee, Sandra Nedvetskaia, carefully cleans a two-handled Campana vase, one of two, at Christie's Auction House in London, England.
Daniel Berehulak/­Getty Images

­Well-loved antiques have been used, cleaned, polished and enjoyed for generations. This can continue in your home. The best way to maintain the function and value of antiques is to do them no harm.

Antiques with original parts and finishes are worth more than altered antiques, so think in terms of restoration rather than renewal. If a piece is coated with years of grime, cleaning alone can reveal its beauty and add value to it. Make necessary structural repairs, but remember that the dings and wear that come with age are part of the charm of antiques.

While many antiques can be used everyday, some require special care. Antique clocks need periodic winding, some daily and some less often. Rugs and quilts will hold up longer if they're displayed on walls rather than thrown on floors or the back of a chair. Antique wines need the same conditions as any wine that you plan to store for a long time: cool temperatures and high humidity, in a dark, vibration-free environment.

Antique books, manuscripts and sheet music must be protected from water, fire, excessive humidity, excessive heat, strong light, and paper-nibbling insects and rodents. Store them upright on shelves closely enough to support each other, but leave a little wiggle room so you don't damage them when you take a book out to enjoy. Make sure that acidic papers, such as newspaper, aren't pressed between the pages and always handle old books with care.

Photographs, whether printed on paper, metal or glass, should only be handled with white cotton gloves. They should be stored in archival boxes in individual archival envelopes, and kept in a dark, dry, cool place.

With maintenance and care, your antiques should provide years of enjoyment as they increase in value. And one day, you may be ready to unload your precious collection to begin a new one, or simply to make some money. If you discover that you enjoy hunting for, appraising and caring for antiques, you may find your calling as an antiques dealer.