The way we value antiques has changed over time, depending on fashions and trends. So, how have attitudes to antiques changed today? And will today's "throw away" culture and digital age mean less antiques being passed on to future generations? This week's instalment will seek to answer these questions...
Traditionally, items with an age of 100 years or more have been considered antique. However, as demand for antiques declined over time, the goalposts have moved. This began in the 90's, when demand for British antiques peaked somewhat, pushing prices to extraordinarily high levels. Consequently, for many, antiques became unaffordable, in particular, furniture. As a result, cheaper, reproduction pieces and flat-pack furniture started entering the market. So instead of antiques, many people were turning to modern, cheaper, neutral alternatives.
Then, during the 00's, demand for mid-century fashion and furniture started to grow and as such, antique fairs began changing rules, allowing items made up to 1969 to be included.
Now, with property prices at an all time high, people's living conditions have changed. With more and more unable to afford larger properties, certainly the younger generations, and with space limited in inner city areas, smaller flats and apartments are now the norm. We've seen people's living spaces shrink as house prices have increased, meaning less space to accommodate larger grand antique pieces. And with a fashion for minimalism in recent years, we now see low cost, flat-pack, alternatives dominating the market. Consequently, this has fuelled a "throw-away' culture, meaning people are more inclined to regularly replace items, instead of loving them for generations. And this has not just happened with furniture. Cheaper, reproduction pieces are flooding the markets in most industries.
For many, some of their most expensive belongings now (apart from cars or property) are not antiques. They are phones or laptops, which have a relatively short life. However, the repairability of older technology has seen a resurgence of interest in vintage and retro cameras, record players, watches, etc. Antique clocks and musical instruments, once considered hi-tech, themselves, are other examples of fixable analogue devices. While such pieces may now be selling as collector's items for thousands of pounds, they have both limited usability and life, and they are, at the moment, simply something to collect.
However, with the new "Right to Repair" legislation being brought in by the European Union in 2021, which will force firms to make appliances longer-lasting, and to supply spare parts for machines for up to 10 years, this could see the beginning of the "Digital Heirloom". However, there are still too many question marks around the longevity of digital files to be certain. But, with new laws and the ever advancing quality in digital mediums, surely we can't rule this out.
We are, however, already seeing a change in attitudes in younger generations. They are becoming more aware of the impact their choices have on the environment, in particular, of constantly replacing goods. They are beginning to recognise that a well made piece of antique furniture, jewellery or ceramic now compares so well in price to a mass-produced, modern piece. You could say that things are about to go full-circle!
So, my opinion is that in the immediate future, there will be less antiques and heirlooms being passed down. Unfortunately, this is a direct result of society telling us that we must follow trends. Consequently, people have opted for fast and cheap over quality and sustainability. However, we will and are already seeing a change in behaviour. We will start to move away from the "throw away" culture and we will see a boom in the antiques and vintage market. It is already becoming fashionable again. We will see more people modifying, converting and remodelling antique and vintage pieces to fit in with their lifestyles. And we will see people holding onto pieces for longer and passing them on.
And as new laws are introduced, meaning companies have to make better quality digital technology and make available replacement parts, it is obvious that not only will technology last longer, we'll be able to repair it, instead of disposing of it, meaning that it can be passed on to generations to come. A "Digital Heirloom", Ladies and Gentlemen!
It really is a fascinating subject. Do you still have antiques and heirlooms that you'll be passing on? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below. So, that's it for this week folks! I hope you found this interesting. Until next week, stay safe, keep buying those antiques and keep spreading that Source Vintage love!
Owner Source Vintage
Shop from Source Vintage here