Saturday 7 August 2021

Buying 'Ancient Jewellery?" Watch out for Ungrounded Fakes

                        Jack Ogden                   

Rob Bates, 'The Ancient Jewelry Market Has A Counterfeit Problem' August 06, 2021

As a celebrated jewelry historian, Dr. Jack Ogden (pictured) gets to see some of the most impressive pieces in the world. But lately, he’s been spending much of his time looking at equally impressive fakes.[...] Ogden, the founder and current president of the Society of Jewellery Historians, estimates that about half the “antique” gold jewelry on the market is actually fake. And while he’s able to catch most of it, he also suspects that well-crafted knockoffs have landed at auction houses, in high-end collections, and even in museums. Ogden has seen items that purportedly came from ancient Greece, Rome, and the Byzantine Empire; if one person made it, chances are, another has faked it. “It’s a huge business,” he says. “Some of these items fetch hundreds and thousands of pounds. In the last 20 years, it’s grown exponentially. You figure they use maybe £20,000 in raw materials, and they get maybe £200,000 on the other end.” The quality of the fakes varies wildly, he says. “I’ve seen some idiotic things. But some real nice ones.” [...] Ogden admits that, even though he’s a noted authority who authenticates for museums, he’s likely been fooled too. “I reckon I pick out about 90%,” he says. “Some of the really good ones are almost impossible to tell from the originals. They are done by incredible craftsmen. [The forgers] know the materials, they know what technology to use. They can easily research all this information online.”
The careless and underinformed collector is the loser:
Of course, even when a fake is spotted, it isn’t easy to catch the perpetrator. “It’s very tricky, legally. The dealer will say he didn’t know it was fake, and it’s hard to prove he didn’t. It becomes very hard to track these people down.” [we should] “Openly recognize that much of the ancient art on the market or displayed in a public or private collection is there on the basis of one or more opinions that [it is] genuine. An opinion is just an educated guess. As the quote says, ‘Assume nothing, question everything.’” “For the inexpert buyer,” he continued, “the wise advice is probably still what the Italian antiquarian Ricardo Nobili said almost exactly a century ago—buy old jewelry as if it were modern and be pleasantly surprised if it turns out to be old.”
Or perhaps just not buy this sort of thing at all. Thinking just two seconds will reveal where you'd get a matched pair of ancient earrings. No not lost in the bushes on the corner of a field in the fkluster of a summer's day amorous moment, but ripped out of graves. Fingerrings? Lost on a forest path while going to pick blueberries? Or ripped out of a grave where they were deposited by bereaved relatives? A complete necklace? Left behind after a dip in the river? Or stolen from a tomb? Who is buying this stuff kidding themselves that (a) it is genuine and (b) not largely from desecration of cemeteries? 
Map by AAAS ( on damage done to Dura-Europos by 2014. Red, looting in the city, yellow, looting of thousands of graves in the city's cemeteries. 


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