Old's gold

Forgotten family heirlooms could well be treasure troves, so take good care of them. Sometimes they can easily fetch you lakhs.

Everyone possesses a piece of history—a grandfather’s old Rolex, an ornate piece of jewellery or a quaint Japanese tea set gifted by the wife of a diplomat. Little things we are emotionally attached to. But their value is more than nostalgia. Fascination for such antique pieces has steadily grown in the past few years leading to a spurt in both collectors and investors.

Comments Delhi-based S Jain, dealer of antiques and curios, “People are interested in all kinds of articles like fine crockery, jewellery, statutes, branded watches and wood carvings.” Jain claims that the value of antiques has doubled in the past few years.

Contrary to popular perception, all antiques needn’t date back by centuries to be considered valuable. Articles that are of good quality, aesthetically appealing, rare and in good condition demand high prices in the antique mart.

The valuation of an antique is done on the basis of the uniqueness of its design, style, make and material used. Older artefacts usually command better prices simply because they are rare.

A major problem with the antique market is that it is not organised. While very few gallery owners stock and exhibit antiques, there aren’t many societies and clubs for enthusiasts either. Collectors and investors are forced to rely on private dealers only.

Absence of institutional selling makes it difficult to ascertain the genuineness of antiques too. Local markets are flooded with imitations that can fool even a connoisseur. Rues Jain, “Too many fakes, sometimes better than original pieces and at cheaper prices, is a big threat to the disorganised market of antiques.”

One possible way of assuring the authenticity of antiques is accreditation by a museum. This not only helps in tracking the origin of an antique price but also in its price discovery. Without a credible system of benchmarking the quality of such an article, over and under quotation in financial valuations are rampant.

The demand for foreign antiques is also increasing and they command equal if not better prices in the market. Vinod Khandelwal, a Gurgaon-based dealer in European artefacts, says, “The NRI community, families sending children overseas for studies and the youth are very hot on exclusive old pieces from abroad.” Chandeliers, statues, glassworks and delicate crockery enjoy great demand.

In fact, if dealers and collectors are to be believed, the past few years have witnessed such a jump in demand that there is shortage of good antique pieces. Thus prices of those available in the market have shot up by over 60-70% in the past one year alone, inform dealers. So hold fast to the assets of your forefathers. They might soon strike gold for you too.