Allan Blackburn column: Weighing up how to value antiques

Allan Blackburn.
Allan Blackburn.

Last week I started to talk about my experience in valuing antiques. I’ve always said that valuing antiques is a skill that really can’t be taught – it’s all about experience.

There really is no better way of valuing an item than by looking, feeling and touching it.

This is especially true when looking at porcelain and pottery items.

The first thing when valuing an item is to feel the weight of it.

If it’s good, weighty and solid then chances are it’s a real piece. Reproductions tend to be lighter than the real thing.

Next, have a look at the colours. This is vitally important.

Colours change approximately every 30 and 40 years – some by law and some by popularity.

For example, a law was passed that blues had to change by the end of the 19th century as lead wasn’t allowed to be in paint anymore. Therefore the hue of the blue changed at this time.

You can date items quite easily by remembering when the different laws were passed.

Also favourable colours at the time is key to a correct valuation.

During the 1930s for example, the most popular colour was green but it has never been a favourite colour at any other time, so a well made green item can often be dated to this period.

Again watch out for reproductions; they have much brighter colours than originals.

Thinking about fashions and popularity again, Chinese patterns were prolific between about 1880 and 1920 and these had certain colours associated with them in this period.

You should see lovely yellows, pinks and blues in Chinese pottery from this era.

The last thing you look for on a porcelain piece is a mark on the base.

So there are certain key things to look out for that can help date a piece.

I also do an awful lot of reading in my spare time and still visit shops, fairs and markets whenever I can.

I’m sure my wife would love a holiday relaxing on a beach somewhere instead of trailing around antique centres but it’s my work, my hobby and my passion!

More on valuing next week.