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Antiquing in London
I recently spent some time in London with several other bead society members and thought the rest of you would like to hear my impression of the London antique market.
I am an avid flea market, garage sale and antique store junkie. Wherever I am traveling I make it a point to stop and look, if not buy. Because of this I feel that I have a fairly good idea about availability and prices. I must admit I don't only go looking for beads and bead related items, I do have several other collections that I continue to add to, when good deals become available.
London is a major antique city, it has specialized shows, entire streets dedicated to antiques and a street markets every day in a different area of the city. We hit just about all of the major street markets, some of them twice. We very soon realized that everything in London, not just the antiques, was twice the price of the same thing in the US. But many of the antiques were worth it as there were many types of items that never make it across the ocean to the US. Victorian seed pearl jewelry was one thing I had never seen before. Simple Italian mosaics are found here, but London had large mosaic picture frames, belt buckles, crucifixes, and pins done in so fine a mosaic that you needed a magnifying glass to tell they were mosaics.
Some items were much more plentiful in London than here. I don't think I have ever seen so many things made out of silver. Beaded bags were also plentiful, and very beautiful. The one I came home with has rows and rows of beaded netting. I also bought 6 feet of 3-inch lace beaded with jet beads. One thing you did not see in London, that is very plentiful in the US, was the "country" type early American furniture.
At one of the first markets we went to a book dealer gave us free tickets to an antique show the following weekend. We were glad, as the admission price was $25. We did end up going to the show even though we expected high end antiques. When we walked into the auditorium it was immediately noticeable that we were under dressed and it looked like a decorator had set up all of the booths. We found out later the dealers paid $17,500 for each booth. Just about everything in the place belonged in a museum!! And yes, they were VERY high-end prices, but we were very tempted on more than few items. Some of the memorable items included: Six pieces of size 22-24 beadwork from the early 1700's, ivory sewing kits (with all of their pieces intact), full sets of matched chatelaines, carved ivory, silver and gold needle cases. A string of brass beads, each one signed by the makers, full wall tapestries, and a chain mail "Whiting Davis" style purse in 24-karat gold.
The Antiquarian Book Fair in the next auditorium was also selling museum quality books. Many were from the 16-1800's with hand painted color plates and first editions from Lewis Carroll, Charles Dickens and the like. Between the two shows we were almost speechless. The next day we went back to Portobello road, where we could buy what we liked without breaking the bank. It was fun to look, but much more fun to buy.
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