Where do you get your material?
Most of the antiquities that we source and deal with come directly from old collections (many formed in previous decades) other dealers and auction houses. Old collections that we purchase from can include those that were formed by individuals of some standing (such as the Collection of Sir Daniel Donohue) or by amateur antiquarians with small personal collections that were perhaps accumulated over the years and passed on to family members.
How do you know an object is genuine?
When buying an antiquity it is essential to purchase from a reputable dealer. Reputable dealers will belong to a trade organisation that will abide by strict acquisition guidelines and guarantee the authenticity of their inventory.
We have read that all antiquities are looted. How do you ensure your antiquities aren’t?
This is simply false; many tens of thousands of antiquities have been circulating on the international market for hundreds of years. Buying from a reputable dealer, a vetted member of our trade association ensures that you are buying from someone who has carried out their Due Diligence and is only selling antiquities that are legally on the market.
Is it legal to buy antiquities?
Yes, it is legal to buy and sell antiquities in many countries. Some countries prohibit the trading in antiquities, such as Greece, Turkey and Egypt, while others have tight restrictions on export, such as Italy, while others have licensing systems for domestically found archaeological objects such as the UK and allow for the sale of artefacts that do not fall into the category of treasure or that have been disclaimed as treasure having been through the official Treasure Valuation process. Every country will preserve in public ownership their most important cultural objects but what we are selling are the vast majority of antiquities that are already more than amply represented in public collections. Sourcing from a reputable dealer, who is fully conversant with export and other legislation is strongly advised.
What requirements and documentation should dealers provide when selling antiquities?
Dealers must act in an ethical and lawful manner when selling antiquities. They must ensure that they comply fully with the laws of the UK as well as the codes set by the member organisation to which they belong. Documentation pertaining to the object is highly important and a dealer should provide all they can. This can and should include a detailed invoice, provenance (where known), photographic documentation and a certificate of authenticity. As when buying any item it is important for the customer to receive full details of the transaction including a warranty and receipt of payment. If export licences are needed then the customer should be made aware of these requirements.
Do the objects need special care?
The basic rule for care is to provide a stable and protected environment against factors which may cause damage, wear or oxidisation. The major factors that can lead to damage are temperature changes, humidity changes, strong light - especially direct sunlight, chemical exposure and physical stress. For most situations a glass or Perspex (plexiglass) enclosed cabinet, out of direct sunlight, will provide adequate protection and minimise sudden changes in temperature and humidity. Cabinet lights should not be left on for extended periods, as this will increase the temperature and decrease the humidity.
Are antiquities a good investment?
Antiquities have proven to be a good investment; even modest pieces can accumulate value just as well as the more expensive ones. Essentially as a finite resource, antiquities will always have a value. The link they present to the past, as something tangible, secures their value in society. Areas of interest within the field will fluctuate and thus so will value but many good quality pieces have shown significant rises over the years. Careful thought and deliberation should be undertaken when purchasing an antiquity and you must always be aware that investments can go down.
What are the benefits of buying antiquities for my private collection?
The antiquities market offers a wonderful array of artefacts often very modestly priced. It is perfectly possible to buy a fine artefact for less than £1000 for those who have a more modest pocket, while for those who are keen to buy masterpieces costing multiples of thousands, this is also possible. So whether a modestly valued collection or a highly value collection, they both have the same inherent historic value, providing a tangible link to our shared past. It can only stimulate one to further study and learn helping one to take a broader interest in how our societies and cultures were formed and developed.
How does it help the preservation of cultural heritage?
By placing a monetary value on artefacts, more care is shown towards them, they are seen as worthy of preservation. In some countries, historically, ancient sites were robbed for their raw materials. Once it was realised that these objects had value, the destruction often turned to a brisk trade, the governments usually the main beneficiaries. Artefacts were sold, museums were founded. The store-rooms in most museums are still full of objects, some of high value and others of low value. They often do not have the space, staffing or means to exhibit everything in their collections. Private collectors can aid in this preservation by owning and caring for pieces that would otherwise be placed in storage or hidden from public view if kept in a museum. Many dealers nowadays actively aid in preservation by fundraising for museums, by hosting their own private events and lectures and by contributing to research and scholarship. Many private collectors publish their collections as well as lend them to museums and institutions for further research, exchanging ideas and expertise with academics and the public alike.
Is it easy to export an antiquity from the UK?
European Community legislation means that some items, and especially items of British archaeological interest will require an export licence if they are despatched outside the UK or EC. The dealer you purchase from will inform you if an export license is needed. Generally however it is relatively easy to export antiquities from the UK.
Is it easy to import an antiquity into another country?
With most countries and with objects of more modest value it is relatively easy to import into another country. You will still need to declare the items you purchase but objects, other than numismatic items, which possess no special or rare features of form, size, material, decoration, inscription or iconography and which are not in an especially fine condition for the type of object are not required to have an EU licence for export outside the EU. Provided that the object you wish to import does not form part of a recognised archaeological collection of special historical significance and are not the direct product of excavations, finds or archaeological sites and that they are lawfully on the market there should be no problem. The dealer you purchase from will again inform you of any import restrictions that might apply.
Where was it found originally?
Dealers will have a record of provenance or ownership history, for most objects and this may also include where the object was originally found. This is especially true for British antiquities and Numismatic hoards, which will often be found by metal detectorists or members of the public.
Why is it okay to sell antiquities that were looted a long time ago?
Antiquities that were taken from their sites a long time ago can be traded legally because they were in circulation before the introduction of cultural patrimony laws in their countries of origin or prior to export being forbidden in certain countries. As opinions changed and adapted, so did the laws in many countries and gradually national and international laws and conventions have led to the reduction of newly found antiquities circulating on the market. Vast numbers of antiquities have been in circulation for many years and some for hundreds of years providing the basis for what can or cannot be sold now.
How has it survived for so long?
The survival of an antiquity sometimes seems remarkable but there are millions of objects that have been buried in the ground or in caves, lost by their owners but have now been found. The location, soil type, humidity etc. will have governed how well the item has survived.
Why is it alright for Museums to have looted antiquities
Museums all over the world house artefacts from other countries. These objects portray civilisation and the fruits of our human endeavour, they have been preserved, exhibited and displayed within these museums. Some of these items may have been stolen, looted or acquired by our ancestors at times of colonial expansion, war and expeditions and during periods where there was no, or very little regulation on the acquisition of antiquities but it is these objects that form the basis of museum collections. Although the UK has not yet ratified the Hague Convention, as an Association, we abide by the tenets of this Convention believing it of the utmost importance to protect heritage vulnerable to looting during times of conflict. There are a number of museums that have volunteered to be custodians of looted artefacts until such time as they can be safely returned to their country of origin. This has proved to be quite a controversial move but has equally received vocal support by those who are anxious to see objects securely stored.