From Visigoth coins to Degas paintings, extraordinary items are the stuff that makes New York City's Sotheby's world renowned. One type of auction conducted there is the estate sale, which is often a source for fine antique furniture. At these sales, or with any furniture bought through Sotheby's, every item is sold "as is." If time has compromised the piece, Sotheby's Restoration, based in rural Claverack, New York, may be able to help.
Depending on the piece's condition, the staff at Sotheby's Restoration applies treatments ranging from cleaning and repolishing to removing water marks and repairing inlays to marquetry and gilding. The staff, who estimates a piece's age and origin before beginning, believes that the least amount of work that can be done is usually best. Some imperfections -- deep stains, deeper gouges, burn marks -- often require extensive work that could compromise a piece's value. According to managing director Colin Stair, a scratch deep enough to catch a fingernail dragged across its surface should be left alone. He further notes that because a lot of the restoration work involves undoing other people's inferior repairs, the staff tries to use only reversible processes.