|Many people think that if an antique
is repaired, it has been restored. Among the antiques community,
though, it is known that this is not the case. While a repair
may restore functionality to a piece, a restoration works
to return the piece back to its original condition. This means
making structural repairs but it also means paying attention
to — and mimicking — the piece’s original
finish, materials, and functionality.
Antiques restoration may be done on a wide range of items,
such as furniture, automobiles, and art. Of course, the levels
of work that is to be done in order for a complete restoration
to occur varies piece to piece. Restoring a piece to its original
glory may be as simple as meticulously cleaning dirt and grime
off of the surface of a painting, or it may be as labor intensive
as rebuilding the engine and interior mechanical system of
Finish restoration involves re-emulsifying any original finish
that is on the piece. The solid varnish that exists on the
piece is thus re-liquified, which restores its ability to
adhere to the piece. If the varnish has worn away or is very
thin, new varnish may be applied. However, the amount of original
finish that remains on the piece is directly related to the
value of the antique.
Similarly, conservation involves preserving as much of the
original finish as possible. Conservation also involves using
practices to attempt to keep the protect the piece from further
deterioration. Because conservation may require that finishes
be added to the piece that were not originally present, conservators
must follow a range of ethics when conserving a piece. These
ethics typically involve minimal intervention to the original
state of the piece, using appropriate methods and materials
for conservation, using reversible methods for conservation,
and recording comprehensive documentation of all work that
was completed so that it may be referenced by future parties.
Another practice that is similar to but different than conservation
is preservation. In preservation, processes are put in place
to preserve the original materials of a piece. Preservation
does not actually involve restoration. Instead, preservation
is something that occurs before deterioration has occurred.
Where there is no original varnish or finish to work with,
a piece may be refinished. However, refinishing, which does
not allow one to retain any of the original finish, is a process
that greatly diminishes the antique value of a piece. Nevertheless,
it may result in the piece being more functional for a consumer
who is less concerned with antique integrity and more concerned
with structure and style.
A last resort for restorers is stripping, which is a process
by which a piece is bathed in chemicals that work to remove
all varnish, finish, and glue from the piece. This results
in all original materials being lost and in some cases, the
structure of the piece being compromised if glue was holding
it together. This process typically results in a huge diminishing
of the value of the piece, particularly in antique markets.
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