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Antiques Considered - November 24, 2010

 This oriental table belongs to a family in Lancaster County, which has owned it for several generations.  The wood is teak and the insert is soapstone or marble.  The ornate inlay is mother-of-pearl.  It has some fading of the wooden frame, but has not been refinished.
The table is probably Japanese, and dates from the end of the nineteenth or beginning of the twentieth century.  One of the keys of dating the table is to note the height.  It was made for export to the West, where the modern taste for lower furniture was coming into vogue.  A great burst of interest in oriental pieces occurred in that time span, and has continued thereafter.


The fading of the wood is not a serious flaw, particularly as some people prefer a lighter tone on oriental pieces.  The mother-of-pearl inlay is excellent, and its good condition is unusual, as often some pieces of it are lost over the course of the years.  In addition, frequently the soapstone or marble insert is cracked.
Oriental furniture is always popular, most frequently serving as accent pieces for traditional settings.  As a rule, on the market it does not bring the prices that similar American or English pieces command.  In this country the oriental style has never achieved the level of popularity of Queen Anne, Chippendale, Hepplewhite or Sheraton furniture. This piece is worth $250, and would make a useful and serviceable occasional table.
I do not recommend oriental furniture as an investment, because of the reduced interest it experiences in comparison with the other motifs. Unless the piece is exceptional, oriental furniture should be eschewed as an investment. The same is not the case for oriental porcelain, which remains among the best of investment quality antiques, but again, to invest is to view antiques as commodities. In that vein, porcelain remains more significant as an investment.
Happy Antiquing!
Lisa and Henry Hull operate Commonwealth Antiques and Appraisals, Inc. at 5150 Jessie DuPont Hwy. 22570. (P.O. 35). Wicomico Church, VA 22570. Write to them or e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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