How much are antique armoires worth?

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Mearto Specialist:


Delia has nearly 30 years of experience at regional and international auction houses in the United States, and is also currently the editor of an art and antiques trade publication that tracks market trends, auctions and antiques shows. Delia is a generalist in glass, ceramics, silver and other metals, fine art, textiles, antiquities, wines and spirits, stamps and currency, collectibles and dolls and toys. Additionally, she is a specialist in 15th to 21st Century furniture from around the world. Her extensive professional network of appraisers, curators, dealers and collectors has proven to be an invaluable resource in her work for Mearto.

What is the history of cabinetry?

Cabinetry has a rich history encompassing various styles and purposes. The term "cabinet" originates from the French "cabin," meaning a room or chamber, with the suffix "-et" signifying "small."

Around the world, diverse cultures developed different cabinet-making designs and techniques. For instance, in China, craftsmen constructed wooden cabinets without nails or glue, using wooden joinery. Traditional Chinese cabinetry often features heavily lacquered surfaces and mother-of-pearl inlays.

In 17th-century Europe, cabinetmaking emerged as a significant art form. Furniture designers published catalogs showcasing various cabinet styles and options. However, handmade pieces were generally unaffordable for most until industrialization, which made cabinets more accessible and influenced evolving styles across different eras.

What are the different types of antique cabinets and armoires?

There exist several styles of antique cabinets and armoires, designed to suit various purposes and spaces. Some key categories include:

  • Bow Front: Among the oldest styles, featuring a convexly shaped front, often with glass doors to display items such as fine China or figurines.
  • Cocktail: Cabinets designed for storing glasses and bottles, often with glass doors for visibility and pull-out surfaces for mixing drinks.
  • Cellarette: Smaller, waist-height cabinets used for storing and securing alcohol, sometimes portable or disguised as other furniture during Prohibition.
  • Corner: Cabinets shaped into a 90-degree angle to fit into corners, coming in various shapes and heights.
  • Display: Common cabinets with glass doors allowing visibility of contents.
  • Filing: Cabinets fitted with large, deep drawers, often used for organizing papers or card catalogs in libraries.
  • Nightstand: Small cabinets designed to sit beside a bed, often in pairs.
  • Wedding: A Chinese tradition, room-height cabinets given as part of a dowry, typically finished in red and used for storing clothes and valuables.

How are antique armoires valued?

Several factors affect an armoire's value. Condition plays a significant role, with surfaces and finishes ideally free from damage like stains, fading from sunlight, warping, or cracking. Repairs, if present, should align with the original design and materials used. Missing or broken parts also impact value, as do the functionality of mechanical details like hinges and drawer shafts.

Rarity, the manufacturer's reputation, historical periods, and the materials used (high-quality hardwoods like mahogany, oak, or walnut) contribute to an armoire's price.

What are the most expensive armoires?

Some of the most expensive cabinetry is associated with renowned designers like André-Charles Boulle, Thomas Sheraton, Thomas Chippendale, and George Hepplewhite. For instance, a pair of Boulle-made cabinets sold for $2,115,025 at Christie's in 2008. In modern times, an unusual wedding cabinet painted by Li Shan sold for $28,125 in 2011, featuring a portrait of Mao Zedong on the front.

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