How to give antiques as wedding gifts
Finding the perfect, unique gift
Toronto PhD student, Nicola Spunt, faced a tough decision. Her oldest friend was getting married and the perfect wedding gift eluded her. She wanted something unique and memorable. But what? For many of us wedding veterans, Spunt’s dilemma inspires empathetic nods. Cash may be king and wedding registries can make life simpler, but sometimes you want your gift to speak unconventionally.
“I wanted something symbolic and meaningful; that expresses something about our relationship and that’s also suitable as a wedding gift for their relationship,” explains Spunt. She decided on a clock. A timepiece with time a metaphor for the history and longevity of her friendship as well as the beginning of the couple’s life together.
A contemporary clock didn’t project the right image, though, evoking neither the aesthetic nor the symbolism she had in mind. But a Napoleonic antique clock did. After much scouring, Spunt found the perfect one at an antique shop, Antiquités La Maison Bleue, in Piedmont, Que.
Veteran antique dealer Martin Swinton isn’t surprised by Spunt’s decision. “The thing about giving an antique is it’s unique,” he explains. “You can’t go to the local store and find 50 others exactly the same; I think it implies a little more thought.”
Finding the perfect match
Of course, you have to know your audience, cautions Swinton, an antique shop owner for 10 years, now focused on appraisals and estate sales. “Usually people who come in know the person they’re buying for enjoys antiques and collectibles,” he says.
“Even if your tastes run to antiques, it’s certainly not everyone’s cup of tea,” echoes Spunt. “You have to feel pretty sure it’s going to gel with their tastes.”
With that in mind, it’s probably best to avoid furniture or art, says Kealan Sullivan, owner of 69 Vintage in the heart of Toronto’s eclectic Queen Street West neighbourhood. Trinkets or smaller items that complement contemporary gifts are less risky choices since they demand less space, she says. Sterling silver plates, candlesticks and intricately inlaid Syrian boxes—made of exotic wood—are some of the wedding gifts Swinton sold at his former store, Peek-A-Boo Emporium.
Quilts, flutes, coasters, wine chillers and luggage top the list for antique wedding gifts at 69 Vintage. When it comes to that special day, brides can also sift through Sullivan’s collection of wedding gowns and veils. And then there are the more intimate finds. Spunt was thrilled with a vintage blue lace garter (“something old/blue”) she bought at 69 Vintage for another friend’s nuptials.
No matter what you seek, make sure to do your homework first, says Swinton. Research items on eBay to ensure you’re paying a fair price. Do the ‘ping test’ with chinaware to discern cracks or chips. And beware of imitations. “If you’re looking at memorabilia or anything that has become really popular, it has more than likely been reproduced,” he says. A savvy hunter can luck out anywhere, be it a yard sale, antique mall or shop. But, for those with less knowledge or time, a store may be the best bet. Find a dealer you can trust, who engages you, adds Swinton. Indeed, Spunt credits the Piedmont shop owner for helping her navigate a sea of clocks to find one with the “right” wood, face and chime. It’s about the search, says Sullivan “It’s about finding the right piece and going the distance to find it.”