Pretty vintage oddments make a set. Foley China from 1900 meets a Branksome 50s side-plate. An ideal trio for a small boxed gift.
ONE snowy rock star Christmas, Rod Stewart gave Elton John, a novelty fridge, just big enough to chill a few beers in the hush of his recording studio. Elton in return gave Rod a small authentic Rembrandt drawing ‘Adoration of the Shepherds’.
The insanely rich can laugh that sort of thing off, and I suspect through the blushes, Rod laughed a lot louder. For the rest of us, finding appropriate and truly appreciated presents is a serious business.
If you know someone who loves, say, Royal Doulton tube-lined vases, or is mad about enamelled pinch pots, it’s tempting to go off and confidently seize something for their treasure chest. Collector’s are fussy old hens, their buys are deeply considered, and they know their pecking ground.
The twisted joy of that nerve-mincing hunt for inclusions in a collection is almost more fun that finally buying the prize. We don’t want to circumnavigate this pleasure with instant but fleeting gratification. Where are the holes in their collection? Your gift may be flicked with a quiet elastic motion to the back of the cabinet, probably with its multiple, until quietly shuffled off in favour of a desired key piece.
Antiques can be too personable as a Christmas present. You need to know the receiver reasonably well, (unless you’re gifting anyone something classic and highly valuable — when it will be all hand clapping and Rod Stewart-style ‘ooh, I love it Baby’).
Err towards things that are still useful over dainty purely ornamentals, as these are hard to pin down in terms of taste. Here are my win-wins for Christmas gifting vintage style, that won’t cost too much money even if it all goes candied-pear shaped. For vintage rather than antique, aim at the younger recipient, who won’t have enjoyed these designs first time around.
I was doing a little research in the National Library of Ireland and had a tea break. The cake arrived on a 1960s Royal Tara side plate heavy with transfer fuschia roses. Odd vintage side plates are the orphans of every auction, charity shop, mid-range antique shop, fair and boot sale. Match them by size first, and then theme: flowers, atomic 50s explosions and designs, or one colour). Ensure they are chip free, china rather than lumpen stoneware, and gift six to 12 as a group, or make up trios of side-plate/cup/saucer- nicely boxed up.
Staying with tableware, look for random baskets of things in any antique outlet. The silver or silver-plated napkin ring from the mid-1800s to the turn of the 20th century can make up a lovely harlequin set that will shine against any linen and flatware. Serving spoons, again in plate, are useful, chunky devils and shone up with a little Silvo, truly impressive. Tie at the handle with a small ribbon and pretty card, with the date and task for the piece.
I don’t know anyone who doesn’t welcome a single side chair for use somewhere around the house, and here I’m going to share a secret store. If you’re in the Cork area, take a trip to the Marina Business Park, and have a dig through the temple of honest vintage that is CJM Furniture. Pick up a solid wood Edwardian or even Victorian chair, a single diner with a plump, drop in seat and no rocking or rolling at the joints. Lightly wash off the timber with wood soap and a damp rag, and when dry, wax with Malone’s Lavender Polish. Leave the original padding and cover of the seat in place, pulling a new fabric remnant pinked to size over the seat frame. Carefully fold the corners to obedience and staple on the underside before replacing.
Do you have a bookish youngster in need of a stocking filler? What about a 2,000-year-old coin? Roman and Greek antiquities of no great note with certificates of authenticity, are weirdly cheap. Pick up on the Horrible Histories (BBC), generation and take a trip to eBay or your next, nearest antiques fair. You can even buy a heap of Roman coins unsorted and dirty that can be cleaned with olive oil to discover what’s under the numismatic muck of ages.
Expect to pay from €10-€30 for a single coin from the first five centuries AD with an identifiable face (not gold or silver).
* Dec 1. The Galway Bay Hotel, Salthill; The Lakeside Hotel, Killaloe, Co Clare.
* Dec 8. The Kinsale Antique and Art’s Fair, Acton’s Hotel; Clontarf Toy Collectors Fair, St. Anthony’s Old Church, Clontarf Rd, Dublin.
* See further details of upcoming fairs, auctions, boot sales, Christmas markets and antique outlets at: www.collectireland.worldpress.com