Restoration can be very expensive and you may be unhappy with the end result, so it is well worth finding a good
restorer fixing a price and being very clear about what you want done.
Simply because they have been around for a long time, many antiques have suffered damage along the way. Sometimes this is part of their charm, but sometimes restoration is called for. In furniture, for example, the patina of age can add to a piece's charm, showing that it has been well used in its lifetime, but worn French polish, burns or stains on tables, wobbly legs or frayed seat covers on chairs will not be easy to live with. If precious china is accidentally broken you are best advised to have it restored professionally.
It can, however, prove difficult to find someone prepared to renovate or restore your antique. Most antiques dealers, whether they trade from shops or attend fairs, usually know of a professional restorer - generally someone they use themselves. Shop owners will usually deal with local restorers and the fact that they use them is a guarantee of good workmanship. Dealers at fairs often travel some distance to the venue, so it is unlikely that their particular restorer will be near at hand.
FINDING A RESTORER
If you fight shy of approaching an antiques dealer - and some of them can be cagey about sharing their restorer - then scan the local papers for ads which deal with your particular problem. Trade newspapers and magazines will also provide names and addresses. A search through the telephone directory will turn up yet more. Look under the section headed 'Antique Repair & Restoration', and see also 'Cabinet Makers', 'Furniture Repair & Restorations' and 'Picture Cleaners & Restorers'.
Large museums have their own department for restoration but smaller museums will often send antiques out for repair, especially textiles, so you could approach the curator for ideas.
Ceramic restorers will often take a stall at an antiques fair to promote their business and will have a selection of photographs of before and after pieces available for you to look at. One enterprising restorer seen recently at a large fair had a continuously running video that showed his restoration skills in detail.
Before entrusting a restorer with your treasured possession, ask to see
examples of work previously done; a true professional won't mind in the least. There are many short training courses on restoration, but these don't automatically mean that the student is skilled at the end of them. It takes many hours of practice to achieve professional results, and if restoration is done badly by an amateur or beginner, the piece can be ruined.
You should obtain a receipt for the goods left with a restorer and this should give an indication of their value in case you need to claim against insurance for loss or damage.
There are some things restorers won't tackle, or will charge extra for doing because of the work involved.
For example, blue and white transfer-printed pottery is extremely difficult to restore invisibly.
The blue is difficult to capture and will show as a different colour under some artificial lighting. Cracks, too, are difficult to conceal; chips or breaks are easier to deal with.
Textiles are another difficult area. Rust stains are almost impossible to remove and tears in fabric are easier to mend than holes. The stretch marks in silk that are known as shattering are there for life.
Ask for an estimate before you authorize any restoration. It takes a long time to strip a clock, for example, and the ultimate cost of repair or restoration can often exceed the value
of the piece. So, unless it is of sentimental value, it might be best to buy another. It is inadvisable to approach 'the little man down the road' if your clock is valuable; take it to a repairer who is a member of the British Horological Institute.
If you are having painted furniture stripped, bear in mind that the piece is usually dipped in hot caustic. The stripper is not responsible for glued moulding remaining in place and old glass in the door of a cabinet or bookcase should first be removed.
Be clear about what you want done. In ceramics, a 'museum repair' is one which merely replaces the missing piece, giving it back its original contours, and makes no attempt to disguise, conceal or colour it. Furniture can be over-restored, making it look too new; the original patina should always be retained and not stripped off. Deep dents can sometimes be drawn out but shallow depressions often add charm. Replacements for missing drawer handles should match the existing ones.
If you are having chairs or settees re-covered or re-upholstered, the fabric used should be sympathetic with the age and style of the furniture; covering a Chesterfield settee in modern Draylon, for example, might seem like a good idea at the time, but it is a move that many people live to regret.