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As Masterpiece London prepares to open its doors, its chairman reveals the secrets of collecting ancient antiquities

Andrew Baker
Head of Aphrodite, Roman, 1st – 2nd Century AD - Courtesy Galerie Chenel 

Philip Hewat-Jaboor, the chairman of Masterpiece London, talks to Andrew Baker about how one can begin collecting antiquities

What kind of items are legally available to amateur collectors in this area of interest?

A very wide range, including seals, intaglios, pottery, glass and bronzes.

How can people be sure that they are buying items that have been properly obtained?

Go to a reputable dealer, ideally a member of The International Association of Dealers in Ancient Art or The Antiquities Dealers Association and to visit their websites to look at the codes of conduct.

My advice is to ask the dealer about the provenance of the piece with supporting evidence. For objects in excess of €5000, dealers will check against a stolen art register such as the Art Loss Register.

An ancient Near Eastern lapis lazuli mace head, Circa 1st millenium BC  Credit: Courtesy Kallos Gallery

Can you give an idea of the range of prices?

Prices are often very modest ranging from as little as a few hundred pounds for an intaglio or a piece of Roman glass. 

Should would-be collectors work through dealers, visit fairs, or go online?

Start a relationship with a reputable dealer from whom they can learn and gain experience. At Masterpiece we have a number of excellent antiquities dealers all of whom are passionate about sharing their knowledge.

Masterpiece also offers the opportunity to handle objects – a vital aspect of learning.

Layered alabaster, Egypt, Third Intermediate Period, XXIst - XXVth Dynasty, ca. 1070 - 656 B.C.  Credit: Courtesy Axel Vervoordt  

Are replicas and fakes a major issue?

Buying through a reputable dealer will help you steer clear of this. Ask the dealer to explain about restoration and confirm the condition of the piece.

Any purchase should be guaranteed authentic and with the provenance stated on the invoice. 

Do you have a personal favourite item or era?

I am particularly interested in the coloured marbles and hardstones that the Romans found so desirable and sourced, throughout their empire, both for sculpture and objects as well as for building materials – for example the different coloured stones of the pavement in the Pantheon in Rome.

An Attic marble grave stele anthemion finial, c. 4th Century BC Credit: Courtesy Kallos Gallery 

With a relatively modest budget it is still possible to buy fragments of Roman works in these stones and also works made later out of re-used ancient stones in the Renaissance and 18th century.

Masterpiece London 2018 sponsored by Royal Bank of Canada will take place from 28 June – 4 July (preview 27 June) at Royal Hospital Chelsea, London; masterpiecefair.com