Antiques restoration

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Antiques restoration is restoring an antique or work of art to a like-new condition, or preserving an antique or work of art against further deterioration as in conservation.



Antiques restoration, National Museum, Warsaw Antiques restoration.jpg
Antiques restoration, National Museum, Warsaw
Antique Painting and Frame Restoration, before and after- photo by Oliver Brothers Fine Art Restoration. Art Restoration, Painting and Frame Restoration, before and after, Oliver Brothers Art Restoration, Boston.jpg
Antique Painting and Frame Restoration, before and after- photo by Oliver Brothers Fine Art Restoration.

Restoration can be as simple as light cleaning to remove disfiguring dirt or grime, such as on the surface of a painting, or it may include near complete rebuilding or replacement, as might be the case with old automobiles or furniture. Often done in preparation for sale, or by a collector upon acquiring a new piece, the main goal of restoration is to "restore" the original appearance or functionality of a piece.

There is a lot of difference between restoring and repairing. Functionality may be achieved by a repair, but restoring an item properly is an art-form. Finishes might/may be stripped and redone, but it is essential that the original patination is retained, if possible. Stripping is only done as a last resort, especially with antique furniture. Engines might be rebuilt with new parts as necessary, or holes in a silver pot might/may be patched. While some of these practices are frowned on by many museums, scholars, and other experts, for many people[ citation needed ] there is little value in an antique that is unusable or not able to be displayed. Poor restoration is the bane of a trained restorer. Working on someone else's bad repair is the worst possible situation. Often with antique restoration, there are also other issues as well. For example, some collectors value "patina", or also want an item to still reflect an aesthetic that shows its age- in this respect, an "over restored" item can actually take away from its value than if nothing has been done to the item at all. Therefore, restoration of valuable objects should always be left to professionals who are sensitive to all of the issues, ensuring that a piece retains or increases its value after restoration.

Original artwork can sustain all sorts of damage over its lifetime. Conservators have an obligation to the artwork to recommend the best techniques for preserving it for future generations. [1]

Restorers are often trained craftspersons, such as furniture makers, mechanics, or metalsmiths. Some have years of experience in their fields, whereas others are self-taught volunteers. Many of the antique aircraft around the United States are restored by trained aircraft engineers assisted by volunteers, some of whom are men who flew those same aircraft years ago.

Given that a single piece of furniture may include wood, glass, inlay, leather and fabric, antique restoration encompasses several skills. Caldararo estimates that 90 percent of USA restorers are self-taught, or have cobbled their skills together from idiosyncratic backgrounds. [2]

"French Polishing" was the industry standard in Europe during the 18th and 19th centuries, pushed aside by the efficient advantage of modern methods in the Industrial Revolution. Lacquers and spray systems replaced the original French polish finish, which is impractical for mass furniture production due to the labor-intensive process of application. As the desire for antiques was not idle, neither was the need for them to be appropriately restored; thus, the trade has been kept alive by a thread.

Restoration terminology


On the other extreme, though most bad old pieces were thrown away long ago, there are pieces that, because of their original design or workmanship or because of damage, are not worth restoring but that are made of re-usable materials such as hard wood, amber, pewter or ivory. As the number of people increases and the number of trees and other natural products in the world decreases, wood and other materials become more scarce. So the fact that the material was not worth doing a good job with when an item was made does not mean that the material should be discarded along with the object now.

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Related Research Articles

Antique old collectable item

A true antique is an item perceived as having value because of its aesthetic or historical significance, and often defined as at least 100 years old, although the term is often used loosely to describe any object that is old. An antique is usually an item that is collected or desirable because of its age, beauty, rarity, condition, utility, personal emotional connection, and/or other unique features. It is an object that represents a previous era or time period in human history. Vintage and collectible are used to describe items that are old, but do not meet the 100-year criteria.

Patina acquired change of an objects surface through age and exposure

Patina is a thin layer that variously forms on the surface of copper, brass, bronze and similar metals, or certain stones, and wooden furniture, or any similar acquired change of a surface through age and exposure.

Building restoration subtractive restoration by removal of non-period features

Building restoration describes a particular treatment approach and philosophy within the field of architectural conservation.

Refinishing repairing or reapplying wood finishing on an object

In woodworking and the decorative arts, refinishing refers to the act of repairing or reapplying the wood finishing on an object. In practice, this may apply to the paint or wood finish top coat, lacquer or varnish. The artisan or restorer is traditionally aiming for an improved or restored and renewed finish. Refinishing can apply to a variety of surfaces and materials such as wood, glass, metal, plastic and paint, although in Britain, when referring to wood or wooden furniture it is commonly known as repolishing - short for re-French Polishing.

Preservation and restoration of automobiles

The preservation and restoration of automobiles is the mechanical or cosmetic repair of cars. For example, the guidelines of the Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA) are to "evaluate an antique vehicle, which has been restored to the same state as the dealer could have prepared the vehicle for delivery to the customer."

Distressing treating theatrical, film or television costumes to make them look worn, damaged, or lived in

Distressing in the decorative arts is the activity of making a piece of furniture or object appear aged and older, giving it a "weathered look", and there are many methods to produce an appearance of age and wear. Distressing is viewed as a refinishing technique although it is the opposite of finishing in a traditional sense. In distressing, the object's finish is intentionally destroyed or manipulated to look less than perfect, such as with sandpaper or paint stripper. For example, the artisan often removes some but not all of the paint, leaving proof of several layers of paint speckled over wood grain underneath. This becomes the "finished" piece.

Vehicle restoration is the process of restoring a vehicle back to its original working condition. Whether the car is partially scrapped or completely totaled.

Conservator-restorer professional responsible for the preservation of artistic and cultural artifacts

A conservator-restorer is a professional responsible for the preservation of artistic and cultural artifacts, also known as cultural heritage. Conservators possess the expertise to preserve cultural heritage in a way that retains the integrity of the object, building or site, including its historical significance, context and aesthetic or visual aspects. This kind of preservation is done by analyzing and assessing the condition of cultural property, understanding processes and evidence of deterioration, planning collections care or site management strategies that prevent damage, carrying out conservation treatments, and conducting research. A conservator's job is to ensure that the objects in a museum's collection are kept in the best possible condition, as well as to serve the museum's mission to bring art before the public.

Conservation and restoration of stained glass the conservation and restoration of stained glass

Stained glass conservation refers to the protection and preservation of historic stained glass for present and future generations. It involves any and all actions devoted to the prevention, mitigation, or reversal of the processes of deterioration that affect such glass works and subsequently inhibit individuals' ability to access and appreciate them, as part of the world's collective cultural heritage. It functions as a part of the larger practices of cultural heritage conservation (conservation-restoration) and architectural conservation.

The conservation and restoration of ivory objects is the process of maintaining and preserving objects that are ivory or include ivory material. Conservation and restoration are aimed at preserving the ivory material and physical form along with the objects condition and treatment documentation. Activities dedicated to the preservation of ivory objects include preventing agents of deterioration that specifically connect with ivory as a material, preventative conservation, and treatment of ivory objects. Conservators, curators, collections managers, and other museum personnel are in charge of taking the necessary measurements to ensure that ivory objects are well maintained and will make the decision for any conservation and restoration of the objects. 

Conservation and restoration of glass objects

Conservation and restoration of objects made of glass is one aspect of conservation and restoration of cultural heritage. The nature and varying composition of the material, and the variety of types of object made from it, demand certain specialized techniques. The conservator needs to be aware of "agents of deterioration" presenting particular risk to glass objects, and how to prevent or counteract their effects. Relevant education and training is available in certain countries through museums, conservation institutes and universities.

Conservation and restoration of books, manuscripts, documents and ephemera subject of scholarly research

The conservation and restoration of books, manuscripts, documents and ephemera is an activity dedicated to the preservation and protection of items of historical and personal value made primarily from paper, parchment, and leather. When applied to cultural heritage conservation activities are generally undertaken by a conservator-restorer.

Conservation and restoration of musical instruments

The conservation and restoration of musical instruments is performed by conservator-restorers who are professionals, properly trained to preserve or protect historical and current musical instruments from past or future damage or deterioration. Because musical instruments can be made entirely of, or simply contain, a wide variety of materials such as plastics, woods, metals, silks, and skin, to name a few, a conservator should be well-trained in how to properly examine the many types of construction materials used in order to provide the highest level or preventive and restorative conservation.

Conservation and restoration of wooden furniture

The conservation and restoration of wooden furniture is an activity dedicated to the preservation and protection of wooden furniture objects of historical and personal value. When applied to cultural heritage this activity is generally undertaken by a conservator-restorer. Furniture conservation and restoration can be divided into two general areas: structure and finish. Structure generally relates to wood and can be divided into solid, joined, and veneered wood. The finish of furniture can be painted or transparent.

Conservation and restoration of archaeological sites Process in archaeology

The conservation and restoration of archaeological sites is the process of professionally protecting an archaeological site from further damage and restore it to a previous state. Archaeological sites require an extra level of care in regards to their conservation and restoration. Archaeology, even with thorough documentation, is a destructive force. This is because once a site has been even partially excavated, it cannot be put back the way it was, so to keep getting information from the site, it must be conserved to current best standards.

Conservation and restoration of painting frames

The conservation and restoration of painting frames is the process through which picture frames are preserved. Frame conservation and restoration includes general cleaning of the frame, as well as in depth processes such as replacing damaged ornamentation, gilding, and toning.

Exhibition of cultural heritage objects

The exhibition of cultural heritage objects is a practice used by organizations where collected objects are put on display to the public. The objects are carefully chosen and placed together to offer educational value, and often to tell a story.

The conservation and restoration of Ancient Greek pottery is a sub-section of the broader topic of conservation and restoration of ceramic objects. Ancient Greek pottery is one of the most commonly found types of artifacts from the ancient Greek world. The information learned from vase paintings forms the foundation of modern knowledge of ancient Greek art and culture. Most ancient Greek pottery is terracotta, a type of earthenware ceramic, dating from the 11th century BCE through the 1st century CE. The objects are usually excavated from archaeological sites in broken pieces, or shards, and then reassembled. Some have been discovered intact in tombs. Professional conservator-restorers, often in collaboration with curators and conservation scientists, undertake the conservation-restoration of ancient Greek pottery.

Conservation and restoration of quilts

The conservation and restoration of quilts refers to the processes involved in maintaining the integrity of quilts and/or restoring them to an acceptable standard so that they may be preserved for future generations. Quilts have been produced for centuries, as utilitarian blankets, decorations, family heirlooms, and now treasured museum collections objects. Quilts are three-layered textile pieces with a decorated top, a back, and a filler in the middle. The composite nature of these objects creates an interesting challenge for their conservation, as the separate layers can be made of different textile materials, multiple colors, and therefore, varying degrees of wear, tear, and damage.


  1. "Paintings and Frames" 2000-2010.
  2. Nancy Davis Kho. "Restoring antiques a nearly lost art." San Francisco Chronicle. January 28, 2009.
  3. Eric & Stanley Saperstein "The Philosophy of Restoration" December 2002 page 5