The value of antique furniture rests in part on its purity–is it still in the form it was when it was made and are all the accoutrements, hardware, etc. original? If it is original, it has greater value, although without going into details at this point there are exceptions to this rule. Hence, a piece of French furniture with gilded mounts is worth more if the mounts are original.
In talking with James Robinson, a restorer in Ashburnham, Mass. who has an extensive resume which includes many of the finest collections of English and French furniture around the world, he told me about a problem that seemed to have no answer at first blush. A commode he was working on had a set of gilded brass mounts that did not fit properly on the carcase. They looked like they should be slightly higher and yet there was only one set of screw holes showing that the mounts had never been moved. Were they later additions or replacements? He felt quite certain that the mounts were old and when moved higher, looked quite perfect for the piece.
Restorers are often not asked to go the extra mile when working. They are expected to conserve money as well as the piece they are working on, but this problem was perplexing. Eventually, James decided to pop off the veneer to look at the carcase to see if anything was amiss there and voila, there were the original holes for the mounts. Why had they been covered? The screws had broken off while being removed and that restorer decided to patch the veneer and lower the mounts. James pulled out the broken screws, three out of sixteen, reveneered the carcase and patched the incorrect holes and replaced the mounts. Problem solved.
Problems that seem insoluble happen all the time. The economy, for example, seems in such a Gordian Knot that it would be hard to imagine it ever returning to “normalcy”. And whatever that state of normalcy is, we can almost never look at another price tag and just accept the value that is being presented to us therein. In the world of antiques, the value of something has never, in my opinion, been based on investment potential. Rather, antiques are to live with and enjoy, they are not an investment portfolio. For those people who have bought things as investments, I say, good luck, and for those people who have bought what they loved, I say, enjoy.