Find Authentic Antique Judaica

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Antique Judaica refers to any art, object or written parchment that portrays the culture, history and religious ethos of the Jewish people. These Antique Judaica items are much sought-after either for religious-ceremonial purposes or to decorate a Jewish home.  Either way, Antique Judaica objects bring the presence of God to those who made use of them.  But it is to be expected that these religious and cultural objects will not serve their true spiritual purpose if they are less than authentic, meaning the Judaica was recently crafted and just passed off as antique.

The sad thing is there some unscrupulous people who fake Antique Judaica. These objects are being acquired left and right worldwide by Jewish communities and even non-Jews who, in a nascent religious kick, have been enamored by the oldest known religion in the world. Scheming artisans took this as a cue to churn out imitation Antique Judaica and make money from proceeds of the sale.

It is unique in that they items take on the characteristics and beliefs of Jewish communities wherever in the world they lived.  This diversity of styles, materials and techniques combined with rarity make Judaica an area of collecting prone to adapted, embellished and reproduced articles. The Judaica of recent make are often made to appear as coming from the 18th or 19th centuries and thus worth more than their actual cost.

Respected dealers in Antique Judaica such as the Joy Schonberg Galleries go out of their way to help people find the authentic specimens. At the outset, the prospective buyer must examine the age, condition, rarity and intrinsic value of the material. These factors, together with the historic and artistic importance of the Judaica, can determine the actual money value of the item.

When buyers go out to acquire an Antique Judaica, they are advised to look at the object up close to determine its authenticity.  For a silver Judaica object supposedly dated 18th or 19th century, the examination should focus on whether the engraved text or decoration is mellow or sharp. Does the item look as if it had been handled, polished and dented through generations of use or does it appear crisp and newly minted without any scratches or missing parts? The latter case is the red flag that the Antique Judaica is not authentic.

There is a wooden Purim Grogger traced to the American Jews in the 19th century.  Don’t be fooled. It is not made of exotic woods from the Amazon rainforest or Southeast Asia as it should be but of some native woods like cherry, oak or walnut.

Buyers should be especially turned off by claims that an Antique Judaica was made circa 16th century. The fact is, although silver has been a key material in the fashioning of secular and religious objects for millennia, very little that was made specifically for Jewish rituals before the 16th century has survived. Most of the objects in museum and private collections of Ancient Judaica date from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries.

High-value Antique Judaica items include Mezuzah cases, Spice towers and containers of various designs and engravings, Kiddush cups, Pilgrim’s clay flask, Cohen clay oil lamp, Clay Container for Scrolls replica (from the Dead Sea Scrolls excavations, two-headed Herodian-style Oil Lamp Replica made of aged terra cotta, and Sefirat Ha’Omer counter made from olive wood.

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About Joy Schonberg

Joy Schonberg is an Art Historian. Formerly head of the Judaica Dept. of Christie's Int'l, she is presently an appraiser of fine arts, lecturer and President of Joy Schonberg Galleries a gallery dealing with Antique Judaica, paintings, silver artifacts, and archaeology. She can be reached at JoySchonberg@aol.com or at http://www.joyschonberg.com
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