Floral, feminine and made for the French royal court, Sèvres porcelain of the second half of the 18th century is becoming incredibly fashionable and therefore reaching staggering prices at auction. For porcelain that is as charming but more affordable, consider English Worcester tableware of the later 18th century. This pretty coffee cup and saucer, c1775–78, sold for £140.
In the world of children’s literature, illustrator Arthur Rackham (1867–1939) has legions of fans for his works. First editions from limited print runs command the highest prices. Just as magical but less appreciated is the work of illustrator Walter Crane (1845–1915), whose Flora’s Feast (Cassell 1889) will fetch about £20 to £30 at auction.
For over 1,000 years oriental potters have been making celadon wares or ‘greenwares’. These beautiful jars, dishes, plates and vases are characterised by a varied palette of soft greens and bidders pay thousands of pounds for pieces. Equally beautiful but undervalued antique celadon from Thailand and Korea is a snip – the two vessels pictured fetched £260 (pear-shaped vase) and £340 (squat jar) respectively.
Gillows of Lancaster was the biggest name in furniture manufacture in the 19th century, making bespoke sets for grand houses, plus a range of standard designs for well-heeled homeowners. The company employed the best cabinetmakers and used top quality timber, and genuine Gillows pieces fetch top dollar. Other manufacturers emulated Gillows designs – this unbranded sofa of the same period and style sold for a modest £1,187.
Patterned glass lamps
The turn of the 19th century was a golden era for glass design, throwing up names such as Lalique, Gallé and Louis Comfort Tiffany. In 1898, Tiffany created lamps and lighting made of handmade stained glass that now fetch upwards of £60,000 at auction. From the same period, the cameo glass table lamps of the French maker Muller Frères are equally elegant but so much more affordable – this ‘Poppy’ design, c1910, sold for £7,500 at Christie’s.
There’s something enduringly special about the output of artist Eric Ravilious (1903–1942). His transfer-printed designs for Wedgwood earthenware, created between 1936 and 1940, are sought after today as they were in his prime. In the same period, Susie Cooper (1902–1995) produced a charming variety of earthenwares that were hand-painted or transfer-printed, complete sets of which sell for under £500 at auction today.
Sleek and high quality silverware by the Georg Jensen company, founded in Copenhagen in 1904, has never gone out of fashion. In comparison, the market isn’t as strong for the fabulous silverware of Omar Ramsden, the British designer working at a similar time to Georg Jensen in the early 20th century. This silver tea caddy, c1928, is an investment certainly, but fetched a more affordable £4,375 at Christie’s.
After the Second World War, furniture design took off and one of the most iconic pieces from that time is the Eames 670 lounge chair and 671 ottoman designed in 1956 in America. Early examples are popular so expect to pay anything from £1,000 to £3,000. Fortunately, there is plenty of well-made Scandinavian furniture from the period around that is much more affordable. The Falcon chair designed by Sigurd Ressell in 1970 is a direct descendent, and this example sold at auction at Sworders for £220.
While we might want to reach for the stars in terms of collecting big antique names, realistically our budgets don't always stretch. Here's how to look out for the underdog - a similar and good quality piece, that isn't as sought-after (or as pricey) as the orignal!
What to check for:
- Poor condition affects value, so avoid chips, cracks and obvious restoration in glass and china.
- When building a collection, buy the best example you can find. Three good things are better than 10 that are under par.
- There's no substitute for physically checking and handling an item before you buy. Is a sofa comfortable? Will that candelabrum look good on your dinner table? These are all important questions to consider.
- Buying from a reputable souce, like an accredited auction house, means that on item will have been properly authenticated by it's style and marks.
- Be wary of bargains online. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
- To get a good grasp of what things are worth, sign up with an online site such as invaluable.co.uk to access recent auction hammer prices.
Where to buy affordable antiques:
- Arthur Swallow runs fairs in Lincolnshire, Derby, Cheshire, Surrey and North Yorkshire. 01298 27493; arthurswallowsfairs.co.uk
- B2B Events holds events in Worcestershire, Edinburgh, Birmingham, Kent and the West Midlands. 01636 676531; b2bevents.info
- Cooper Events has fairs in Buxton, the Cotsworlds, Harrogate and Cheshire. 01278 784912; cooperevents.com
- International Antiques & Collectors Fair (IACF) runs fairs at Newark, Ardingly, Shepton Mallet and Newbury. 01636 702326; iacf.co.uk
- Penman Antiques Fairs has fairs in London, Chester, East Sussex, Oxfordshire and Hampshire. 01886 83301; penman-fairs.co.uk
- Adam Partridge, Cheshire. 01625 431788; adampartridge.co.uk
- Bonhams Oxford. 01865 853640; bonhams.com
- Catherine Southon, Surrey. 020 8313 3655; catherinesouthon.co.uk
- Cheffins, Cambridge. 01223 213343; cheffins.co.uk/fineart
- Dominic Winter, Gloucestershire. 01285 860006; dominicwinter.co.uk
- Duke's, Dorset. 01305 265080; dukes-auctions.com
- Fieldings, West Midlands. 01384 44140; fieldingsauctioneers.co.uk
- Halls, Shropshire. 01743 450700; hallsgb.com
- Lyon & Turnbull, Edinburgh. 0131 557 8844; lyonandturnbull.com
- Mallams, Oxfordshire. 01865 241 358; mallams.co.uk
- Roseberys, London. 020 8761 2522; roseberys.co.uk
- Sworders, Essex. 01279 817778; sworder.co.uk
- Tennants, Yorkshire. 01969 623780; tennants.co.uk
- Woolley & Wallis, Wiltshire. 01722 424500; woolleyandwallis.co.uk