Antique furniture are timeless attractions

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 August, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 20 August, 2010, 12:00am

Antique Chinese furniture is proving increasingly popular in the city, but buyers are often uncertain of what constitutes an antique.

Experts say that an antique piece of Chinese furniture must be more than 100 years old and at least 90 per cent original.

For Chinese antique tables and chairs, replaced legs significantly lower the value of a piece.

'For cabinets, the shelves of the furniture can be replaced, but the main construction has to be original,' says Chiang Fung-cheung, an account manager at Oi Ling Antiques, a store dealing in antique Chinese furniture.

Telling the difference between a genuine antique and a fake is difficult for novices, Chiang says. 'If you are moving into a new house and want to fill it with antique furniture, start looking about three or four months beforehand if you are not familiar with antiques. Do some research and compare items in different shops,' Chiang says.

The value of a piece of antique Chinese furniture is determined by the item's age, amount of damage, prior repairs, type of wood used, craftsmanship, the workshop that produced the piece, and the style of the furniture.

Oi Ling has a large collection of antique furniture made of high quality wood, such as huanghuali, zitan and jichimu. These pieces cost an average of more than HK$1 million each.

Non-hardwood pieces, such as elm wood furniture, are more affordable. A non-hardwood Chinese antique table costs about HK$15,000 to HK$20,000, Chiang says.

Maintaining a wooden piece of Chinese antique furniture in Hong Kong is a challenge due to the city's high humidity. 'Always keep the dehumidifier or air conditioner on, and make sure the room temperature is around 20 to 25 Celsius,' Chiang says.

There are many antique restoration shops throughout the city to repair damaged antiques, and Oi Ling also provides a minimum one-year warranty.

Chinese antique furniture is popular in Hong Kong, but there has been a drop in the number of foreign buyers, who used to comprise the majority of collectors, Chiang says.

'A lot of the Chinese antique furniture stores on Hollywood Road have closed down since the economic downturn and, [since then], there have been two clear trends emerging - more and more restaurants and bars are opening there and the client demographic is changing from European and Americans to mainland Chinese and Hongkongers,' Chiang says.

However, he says that the price of good quality antiques is soaring.

'The demand for high quality Chinese antique furniture from the mainland is still on the rise, so prices of those pieces are still rising. However, the prices of some lower quality antique furniture have fallen.'