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Jean McClelland: Antique barware adds vintage feel, fun talking point to your party

Dec. 09, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

Many a gathering will take place through the holidays, and there are those that suggest it makes a better party if you use vintage barware. This can include decanters, glassware, ice buckets, shakers, swizzle sticks, coasters and more. Those who collect barware often will use it even though it may be of considerable value.

If you are going to use barware from another era there are a few rules to follow. Like any antique glass, shun that dishwasher because the high heat will make the glass brittle and thereafter be easily broken. As your pretties go back into display mode check for chips and scratches so as not to offer them to a guest at the next party.

Some collectors specialize in just one segment of barware such as swizzle sticks or decanters. Others like to have a presentation of the full bar. Whichever category you might desire, these collectors have a few words of advice. First and foremost, buy the best because garnering repairs to chipped, tarnished or dented is expensive and not always with good results.

Another sage suggested that one buy sets and extras if possible. There were so many patterns produced over the decades that finding one more item to complete a set is just too difficult. The decanter may be beautiful but if it's missing the stopper pass it up, or if there are only five wine glasses to a decanter move on - you will need at least six to make a set.

Who doesn't remember seeing a silver ice bucket with penguins parading around the side? The old Igloo ice bucket was produced from 1940 through the 1960s with older versions having wooden handles. Many of these stainless steel buckets still are serviceable today but experts warn not to buy one if it shows signs of rust. Rust is not going to go away, and this rule serves for shakers, trays and other antique items that might be enhanced with metal.

There are several books on the market that can offer more advice on this collectible and can guide you through the process of setting up a vintage bar. One such missive "Vintage Bar Ware: Identification & Value Guide" by Stephen Visakay had good reviews on Amazon. Like any collectible, the hunt is the fun, the acquisition is the reward and the continued joy is using or displaying it in your home.

Jean McClelland writes about antiques for The Herald-Dispatch.