Originally designed to protect the holder from harsh sun as well as rain; the umbrella owes its heritage to the parasol of the nineteenth century and before that, as far back in history as ancient Greece, where royalty, male and female, used it for sun protection. Today, collecting antique umbrellas is a gracious and rewarding hobby, as the collector finds a variety of styles. Read on to learn how to collect antique umbrellas.
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Look for straight umbrella spokes and workable mechanics. The umbrella should open to its full extension and show only slight wear on the handle. Due to the breakdown of fabric with time, it is unusual to find an umbrella more than 80-years-old that has not suffered from deterioration. Unlike many collectibles, antique umbrellas often have had their fabric replaced.
Ask about the history of the umbrella. If it remained in the same family from generation to generation, you stand a better chance of finding an authentic item. Unfortunately, the earliest parasols are in such demand, that reproductions are quite common. Get it appraised to be determine if you have an authentic parasol or a reproduction.
Buy from a reliable antique seller or auction house. Auctions that sell entire estates in one piece are a better source than those who sell single items on consignment. Top auction houses have antiquarians on staff to appraise the items before selling.
Find matching antique accessories, often stored with antique umbrellas. Ladies in the nineteenth century paired their parasols with matching stockings, gloves and shoes, and these were often stored in cedar trunks for protection from moths. When you spot an antique umbrella at an estate auction, be on the lookout for accessories.
Discover pre-1850 umbrellas with whalebone spokes. If your umbrella has long fringes or features a pagoda shape, it is likely from the mid-nineteenth century. Towards the twentieth century, metal spokes came into usage. The finest European parasols of the eighteenth century featured silver spokes and handles.
Ask the seller to open the umbrella before you purchase it. Since most will need to have the fabric restored, it is imperative that the other parts be in good working order. If he won't open it for you, that should send up a red flag.