In with the Old
Out with the New

We live in one of the country’s best areas for antiques. Looking for a few key pieces to call your own? Start here.

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Josephine Keir of Josephine Keir Ltd. in Lewes says knowledgeable and reputable antiques dealers are more likely to help educate their customers. Photograph by Keith MosherWhat comes to mind when you hear the word antique? Aunt Martha’s silver service? Grandmom’s oak hutch? Grandmom?

A true antique is generally considered at least 100 years old. Were the family matriarch a piece of furniture, she’d likely qualify as an early-century period piece. But just as older humans are valuable fonts of accumulated experience and wisdom, true antiques have a value that far exceeds their worth as mere pieces of furniture or household items.

Indeed, there’s something about the warmth, the heft and the historical resonance of antique pieces that make them great additions to nearly any home and decorating scheme. When you buy an antique, you become part of its story—its history or provenance—which lives on after you. And it so happens that we live in one of the richest antiquing areas of the country, especially for American furniture.

Entry to the world of the old can seem daunting. Prospective collectors don’t always know the names of styles or periods that fit their tastes, lifestyles or budgets. So to get started, “I would recommend doing a little bit of research,” says Dawn Lamb, owner of Lamb’s Loft in Claymont. “There are now plenty of opportunities for gathering information, either via the Internet, bookstores or the library. When you’re dealing with antiques, you really need to know what you’re looking for.”

Some of the major American furniture styles are William & Mary (1690-1725), Queen Anne (1725-1750), Chippendale (1750-1780), Federal (1790-1820), and Arts and Crafts (1895-1920). Each is defined by unique design characteristics, materials and assembly techniques. Smart dealers and appraisers can even identify makers by key techniques.

There is a variety of books that offer advice on dating, rating and purchasing antiques. Magazines such as Antique Week and Antiques Digest and TV shows like “Antiques Roadshow” offer significant insight, dealers say.

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