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Personal Effects: Burying broken porcelain may be better option than restoring it

By JERRY SAMPSON

Personal Effects

Question: Hi Jerry. Well, we’re just heart sick. We had a small hanging shelf with some pretty china bowls and cups and saucers on it that belonged to my hubby’s grandmother. Well, he was hammering on the wall in the room behind it and — you guessed it — it fell and everything was broken. Some things are worse than others. Is there any hope? I know from your column that the market is nothing like it was

20 years ago. Would it be a good idea to call that restoration place that advertises on Roadshow? We hate to just throw these beautiful shards in the garbage, but what do we do?

 

Answer: I hate it when things like that happen. But it’s inevitable, and porcelain breaks and things do happen. I’ve addressed restoration before and many collectors and dealers are still on the fence about it.

Now, I know the company you mentioned and I know of their work. But they are outrageously expensive. I mean you can buy several bowls of similar quality for what it would cost to have one of your bowls professionally mended. I appreciate and understand their work, totally. But professional restoration, in my opinion, does nothing to increase its value. There are exceptions though.

If an item is truly valuable, fragile or historic, then high quality restoration is in order. But this is a tight window. Many collectors feel that it’s better to let a piece show its age and history.

If you’re dealing with just average or common pieces, restoration is just not in order. I’ve seen some beautiful things done with pottery and porcelain shards that have been turned into jewelry. That might be an option. I’ve seen broken pieces incorporated into stepping stones or you could do a small table top.

One thing that I’ve actually done is bury it. I don’t mean like a funeral. Though, I did know a lady years ago who staged elaborate funerals for broken things. But that is another story and slightly creepy.

I mean bury, in more of an archeological way. I like the thought of someone from the future doing a dig on my former property and finding something cool and

interesting. I mean, lets face it, the majority of our modern wares are cheap and plastic, and most will wind up in massive landfills or be blasted into space, never to be dug up or examined by a scholar.

You see, even as little as 50 years ago, people still had outhouses, though by this time, they were likely used as a mini-dump. You could always find a quiet spot in your garden, a spot that’s not going to be disturbed, and make an offering to the future. Either that or spend big bucks restoring it, make a craft project, or just toss it. I hope this helps but it’s about the best I can do. Thanks for a great question.