Learning about your collection

In addition to acquiring objects, building a collection is as much about learning as it is about acquiring. Learning about the cultural, historical and social background of your objects will make you appreciate different levels of quality of objects on offer. Equally important is familiarizing yourself with provenance and legal issues. Here are some starting points for you to consider.

1. Reading

Read extensively about your topic. Not just online, but also in real life. When you are building a collection, building a reference library alongside it will help you grow in knowledge and appreciation of your chosen field. Reading about your topic will uncover facts, huge or small, that add to the joy of working with your own collection.

2. Seeing and touching

Nothing is a better teacher than extensive object handling. Only by the experience of holding objects, you will learn to discern between fake and real, between old and new. Look closely at pictures in your reference literature, pick up items in your hands when possibility announces itself. One of the things I always do is just close my eyes and feel the surface of an object: is is smoothly worn, or are the edges still sharp? How does it smell? Is it too heavy or too light in comparison with similar items? Carrying a magnifying glass can also be of great use to examine the thread between beads, the way the hole in a bead is made, the inset of a cabochon, the quality of glass...

3. Legal issues

Inform yourself about any legal issues that may surround your chosen field. For example, is the export of the object legal in its country of origin? Is the import in your country allowed? Do you need a certificate of authenticity or an export/import license?

4. Provenance

Closely related to legal issues concerning illegal trade is a firm provenance. Especially when you are looking to build a collection of top-notch objects, that you dream of auctioning off one day, provenance is essential. Please note that archaeological objects, including jewellery, can come from illegal looting of heritage sites and tombs, but also from museum theft. Sound documentation is important in all cases: has the object been published for example? Are the original invoices of previous sales available? Obviously, when you purchase an item in a dusty bazaar or a buzzing souq, there will be no documentation available: from the moment of purchase, keeping track of an item falls to you! Learn more about that in the section Managing your Collection.

I will be happy to help you learn about jewellery from the Arab world! Check out my lectures, workshops and trainings here.