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Three Expert Insights: Quality Details

"Robert" Belgian State Mantel Clock

"Robert" Belgian State Mantel Clock, Estimated at $20,000-25,000

Quality in antiques and collectibles can stem from fine workmanship or exquisite materials. Skinner experts and appraisers have weighed in on these aspects of quality in the two previous posts. However, there is yet one more major theme when it comes to quality: detail.

As Executive Vice President Stephen Fletcher puts it, “It’s like buying a car.” You could be looking at two identical models, and one has a walnut interior, gps, and a sunroof, while the other has nothing special. Which is higher quality? Most would agree that it’s the one with all the extras. The same reasoning holds true for many antiques. The more intricate the detail or added features, the better!

1. Victorian Furniture: Excess is Best

For Victorian furniture, look for quality materials and over the top details. Embellishments such as well-cast and elaborate bronze mounts, delicate marquetry inlays of exotic woods, metals, or mother-of-pearl, and applied or inset hand-painted porcelain roundels indicate a time-consuming and complex manufacturing process. Victorian furniture is plentiful. High quality was costly in the period and remains highly desirable in today’s market.
Kerry Shrives, Vice President and Director of Discovery Auctions

2. Folk Art Portraits: Look for Complex Composition

We had a folk art portrait of a little boy sitting in decorated Windsor chair, holding a piece of fruit in his hand, with a dog at his feet. The painter wasn’t afraid to add intricate details that would make this picture more appealing, and put this boy into context. While we never learned who painted it, that doesn’t really matter. It was a quality folk picture because of the complex composition.
Stephen Fletcher, Executive Vice President and Director of American Furniture & Decorative Arts

3. Clocks: Unusual Extras Add Value

Quality is easily recognizable in technical horology. Clocks and watches all tell time, but those with complex mechanics like moon’s age dials, perpetual calendars, automata, quarter hour chiming, musical selections played on the hour and unusual escapements found in precision horology are all obvious signs of quality, even to a casual observer. For the beginner, such complexities generally suggest quality; for the connoisseur, quality is positively identified by a careful examination of the components and the visual and technical success of the finished timekeeper.
Robert Cheney, Director of Science, Technology & Clocks

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