Should Antiques Be Restored Or Not?

Saturday 15th December 2018 - Della Bentham


Should Antiques Be Restored Or Not?

Antiques develop signs of wear and damage over the years, but when and how should they be restored, if at all? We take a look...

*Image from Wikimedia Commons by Lucienbegule


We’ve all watched the Antique Roadshow and reeled with shock at the value that can be lost when a piece has been incorrectly restored, but what if the damage is just so bad that a piece cannot be appreciated any longer? Should the fact be accepted that it is destined for the bin? Or should it be saved with a restoration so that the piece can be enjoyed for many more years still?

Having antiques restored by an expert restorer, familiar with the type of antique can help you avoid the pitfalls of a poor restoration that dramatically decreases the value, but some things are better left untouched, so, how do you decide? 

How do you decide whether an antique should be restored or not? 


The value should be the first thing that is taken into consideration. Perhaps consider getting the item professionally appraised. The appraiser will be able to offer advice about the current value of the piece and the potential value should it be professionally restored.

The majority of antiques that can be found in people’s homes would benefit from a professional restoration, but the value of some items is held in the creator of the object and its history rather than the piece itself. These are more often than not museum pieces though, or items of cultural significance.

How bad is the damage?

Almost everything will show signs of age and use, antiques are old and have seen much use. Because of this, it is typical to see signs of wear. Sun damage on furniture for instance. More often than not, minor damage like this is best left alone.

However, if an item is actually broken, or extremely damaged and unsightly it would be a good candidate for a professional restoration. Finally, if a piece has received a poor previous restoration attempt, then it would benefit it to be restored by a capable professional to correct any errors.

What is the item?

Some items are enhanced by things like patina. Platinum jewellery, for example, develops a patina over time, which adds to the beauty and desirability of some pieces. Silver is another item that tarnishes over time and develops a patina, but removing this completely can actually devalue it.

As mentioned above a little sun damage on furniture, or crackling in glazes on pottery is expected. It shows the age of a piece and adds to its charm. 

Some pieces such as delicate jewellery are more likely to become damaged in the repair process as the job is understandably extremely fiddly.

Weigh Up The Risks.

Once you have taken all of the above into consideration, you can do some research into your piece, the damage and the restoration process. You can start looking for restorers that are familiar with the type of antique and the damage it has sustained, and most importantly look for highly recommended restorers that come with excellent reviews.

Before undertaking any restoration, you need to assess the risk. Speak to different experts and get a range of opinions. Don’t just listen to the advice of one person, you need to be sure that there is consistency in what you are told. There is no point cutting corners and trying to save money when restoring antiques as it will detract from the value in the long term, so only undertake the work if you can afford to have it carried out by someone who comes with glowing reviews.