Words by Duncan Campbell | antique silver specialist
For decades now antiques dealers have been trying to market their wares with the slogan ‘Antiques are Green’. Unlike many marketing claims made by those with stuff to sell, antiques really are about as ‘green’ as it is possible to get. The most significant carbon implication of buying a Georgian mahogany chest of drawers is the petrol required to get it from the shop back home.
Even if the total carbon cost were calculated, the amounts are still tiny compared with any item of modern manufacture. The mahogany tree was cut down by hand, the moving and shipping relied on wind & horsepower only and since the 18th century furniture maker had no power tools, his breakfast is the only carbon he added.
Ignoring the eye-watering carbon cost of manufacturing modern MDF (the base of most flatpack furniture), the transportation of new items even just from dock to shop uses more CO2 than anything made in the 18th century.
It is almost a cliche now to mention the fact that modern flat-pack furniture rarely survives multiple house moves, as true as it is. Looking at a piece of old furniture, I often wonder about the different houses it has sat in and the many former owners it has had.
The makers of computers and other electronic goods are only now seriously thinking about longevity rather than disposability. How extraordinary it would have seemed to our ancestors to make something that was designed to be irreparable. While, from a commercial point of view, it is hard to sell repaired silverware, a much used and oft repaired piece has bags of charm if only because it suggests a loved and cherished object that over many years almost became part of the family.
These days we all should be a bit more savvy about the environmental cost of the things we buy. I feel I’m bound to say that antiques of all types can be guilt free when it comes to keeping temperatures down.