Imagine if you hung a match safe on the wall next to the fireplace and put wooden matches in it. Further imagine having a wonderful Art Deco airplane lighter on your coffee table. In the kitchen you might have a cold painted antique pottery Mammy cookie jar sitting on the counter full of your children’s favorite cookies (cold painted means the paint chips off).
How about a very expensive nude painting done by one of the great masters hanging in your living room? What about an excellent reproduction of Michelangelo’s famous David in a place of honor somewhere in your home?
There is also the possibility that you would have a wonderful old set of the most popular dinnerware ever produced. It is called Fiestaware and it came in a mix of different colors to include red. To help give it its vibrant color, the ingredients for red included uranium oxide, which is radioactive.
Perhaps you have a few pieces of period pewter on display in your dining room to include spoons, tankards, plates and bowls. Hopefully not too much of the high lead content has seeped through the plating but, alas, that is how old pewter was made.
Although the antique mirrors, antique clocks and antique lamps that you have artfully arranged all have a high level of mercury content they are nevertheless quite lovely. Then there are the amazing antique oil lamps that provide just the right amount of old world charm. Just be careful not to spill any of the combustible kerosene on your good upholstery.
Enough examples – you get the idea. In today’s society, not only would you be highly praised for having such fine taste but also there is a good chance that you could be arrested for child endangerment. Yes, that’s right – child endangerment.
Flammable materials easily accessible, deadly dinnerware and utensils, nude pictures and statues not properly covered for the sake of modesty; why it isn’t even safe for a lady to check her makeup in the mirror, let alone allow a little girl to view herself while playing dress-up.
This all automatically begs the question – how did we ever make it as far as we have without succumbing to such life threatening circumstances? Who would have ever thought that you could become radioactive just from eating your breakfast?
Our goal is not to make light of the organizations or the laws that are designed to keep us all from harm. However if you look at the endless list of them it becomes apparent that we are, in one way or another, being protected from just about everything with which we come in contact.
Even birds kick their young out of the nest in the hope that they will be able to fly and will not fall to the ground in a heap. At some point, both our kids and we have to be allowed to accidentally catch our leg on a rusty nail in an old barn or to take a deep breath of what turns out to be smoggy air. More important than being allowed to we have to be willing to take such chances. Some people would call that dangerous living but others would just call it living.
Antiques are not only beautiful they give us a wonderful view into times gone by. They are the treasures that our great-grandparents, grandparents and parents used on a daily basis and they managed to at least live long enough to put forth the next generation. Do some of these items pose a potential hazard? Yes, they do. Should we not use them because of it? It is hard to say. We all continue to cross the street and drive our cars with regularity. Depending upon where we live, both of these things can be downright deadly.
Anne Benedetto is a former auction house owner and former dealer in the antiques and collectibles business. She presently provides people with important details, behind the scenes information, helpful tips and first hand knowledge of the brick and mortar auction business.
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