Shopping for unique holiday gifts

The Prague Post

Antique Fair offers jewelry and other vintage collectibles

Is it a gallery show or a shopping spree? Either way, the 20th Antique Fair sponsored by the Association of Antique Dealers of the Czech Republic (AAD) offers an excellent opportunity to view antiques and, if one particularly strikes your fancy, to bring it home.

“It’s mostly an exhibition,” says AAD President Simona Šustková. “Most people come just to look. But often they end up buying.”

The event has grown in popularity not only among exhibitors but also the general public. The first fair in 1991 had about 30 exhibitors; now there are more than 60, with a waiting list. As for visitors, Šustková expects about 10,000 this year.

AAD holds fairs every spring and autumn, each with a special theme. This time it’s jewelry, which offers more than just glitter value.

“Jewelry is a good mirror for the development of styles,” Šustková says. “You can see the development of design and art, for example, between the beginning and end of the 19th century.”

With Czech modern art recently in the news for fetching millions of crowns at auction, Šustková believes jewelry has an additional appeal for many people.

“Jewelry is beautiful, but doesn’t have to be expensive,” she says. “Most people can buy it, and prices can start at 300 Kc”

If jewelry isn’t on your holiday shopping list, there will be plenty more at the fair. Exhibitors will also be offering furniture, paintings, toys, clocks, glass and porcelain. And they are all never-before-seen items.

“The shops prepare their collections especially for the antique fair,” Šustková says. “These items are not for sale in shops.”

And exhibitors are often willing to bargain. “That’s the difference between an auction and a fair,” Šustková says. “At auction, prices are going up, up, but here you have a chance to put them down.”

Typically, going to antique stores involves sifting through a lot of junk to find the gems. That’s not the case at the fairs, which have a committee of experts who go through the exhibitors’ inventory for quality control. This helps to ensure that all the items are truly “antique.”

The Antique Fair also gives the association an opportunity to do community outreach. After each fair, the AAD donates 40,000 Kc ($2,139) to the National Gallery for the restoration of smaller items that might not be in its budget. The antique dealers are also planning to make a sizeable donation to a school for autistic children in Benešov. Last year, they were able to raise 40,000 Kc for a Plzen organization that helps disabled children.

Have a necklace or pair of earrings in your jewelry box that you think may be worth something? Bring it to the fair. Šustková says there will be a jewelry expert on hand all weekend to appraise items. This is another good reason to visit the fair, especially if you consider yourself an antique connoisseur.

“We are a special fair for antique dealers, so we have experts,” Šustková says. “You can talk with other experts, and people who have shops that specialize in different objects.”

But be forewarned: The personal satisfaction of the hunt can be addictive, especially if the prize is a lovely trinket for yourself or a loved one.

“People can enjoy [the jewelry] twice,” Šustková says. “When they buy it, and when they give it.”