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Monday, 26 January 2015

Antique Hunting in Karachi


Looking to add some vibrance to your interiors? Don’t add something new, add something old. Well-chosen antiques can add depth, vibrance and a touch of character to a room. Even the most contemporary décor can benefit from the addition of an antique piece.

 
carvings, statues antique
Antique Hunting in Karachi


While Karachi may not have anything to rival London’s Portobello market, there are antiques available if you know where to look. Antiques here can range from massive old carved wooden doors and gates to antique glass and tiles. You can find some wonderful old wooden chests, carved or in plain teak. The odd piece of Chinoiserie will turn up from time to time, as will bronze figurines and relics of the British Raj though these are few and far between.

antique ivory figurines
Ivory figurines at China Shopping Mall in Saddar
 
modern camel bone figurines
These camel bone figurines in contrast are modern, not antique

anitque elephant inkwell
This elephant opens up to reveal an inkwell - or perhaps this may have been an incense burner Photo: Iman Mufti

One of the most established antique dealers in Karachi is Nazar & Sons, now run by Nazar’s son Fazal. Their original shop is in Nursery but they’ve also opened up opposite the post office in Gizri. He’s the one you go to if you are looking for antique chests, huge wooden doors or facades. He has a name in the business and can often source specific items too.
anitque old wooden door
Carved doors can be genuine antiques or modern replicas

You can also find old doors and vintage furniture at some stores in Clifton between Submarine Chowk and Sunset Boulevard. Older pieces are mixed with newer, carved pieces so examine your purchases closely. Another place for antique furniture, particularly chairs and tables, is a small market near the Lines area. Close to St. Paul’s and St. Patrick’s schools, the shopkeepers often buy from Parsis who live nearby and you can sometimes find some excellent pieces.


china shopping mall karachi
Even the sign looks antique!

The China Shopping Mall in Saddar, adjacent to Zainab Market, is one of the best places to hunt for smaller antiques. Head there if you are looking for brass, china, old coins, vases or accent pieces.
The market consists of a handful of shops in two narrow corridors and doesn’t fully open till around 5 in the evening. 

antique shops in karachi

 
vases pots carvings statues antiques
 Searching for the right piece is part of the fun



 
imran khan javed miandad cricket team photo
 A piece of cricket history -signed by Imran Khan, Javed Maindad and every other member of the Pakistan squad that toured Sri Lanka in 1986. The shopkeeper's price was Rs15,000 but you can bargain.    Photo: Salima Feerasta


Be prepared to hunt if you want to find something exceptional. The poky little shops are crammed with bric-a-brac ranging from the exquisite to the ludicrous. There’s no shortage of mundane junk. A quick survey unearths a bowling ball, broken clocks and old cameras, tons of crockery and plenty of mass-produced tat.  However, in amongst all the jumble, you can find Wedgewood china, antique coins, ivory figurines and bronze statues.

afghani jug antique
 An intricately detailed Afghani jug
afghani jug with antique carvings
shiraki scene detail from Afghani jug



royal wedding teapot
This Royal Wedding Teapot, neither attractive nor valuable, is typical of some of junk available

antique shopping
This shop has everything from garish Japanese cats to the Wedgewood bowl you can see in the background
bronze statue
This figure is genuine bronze and priced to match

old antique cameras collection
These dusty old cameras would make a great conversation piece in a contemporary lounge

variety of antique figurines
All sorts of figurines

Like all antique markets, there is always the potential of being conned. Modern pieces can be distressed to appear antique and in some cases the treatment amounts to no more than a little scuffing and a generous layer of dust. If you are inexperienced when it comes to antiques, chances are that you may be cheated. Prices start from just a few hundred rupees but can go up to a hundred thousand rupees or more. If you are investing in anything expensive, do your homework or take along someone knowledgeable.


new silverware
New silverware, not antiques - can easily be distressed. Photo courtesy: Iman Mufti

For example, there is plenty of blue and white china in the market at present. It’s currently very popular but all the available examples are certainly modern mass-produced pieces.

blue and white antique vase
One of the vendors insisted this was a genuinely “purhana” vase but it is essentially the same as new vases available around town.
Chinese cork sculptures
Chinese cork sculptures like this one start at $20 on Ebay - though handmade ones can be pricy

If you’re serious about collecting genuine antiques, take the time to get to know the shopkeepers. There are many reliable dealers. If you’re looking for something in particular they can often source it for you or point you in the right direction. The most interesting pieces rarely end up on the shop floor. If a shopkeeper gets a good piece in, he is likely to save it for his best clients – people who he knows have a passion for antiques and who buy on a regular basis.

lapis frog
This Lapis frog is Rs3,500 - though the final price depends on your bargaining skills

old antique telephone
The market is great for props for plays

antique goblets shopping
These start at just Rs100

One of the dealers who supply the shops may also approach you. They tend to hang around the market to try and build up a private clientele in order to sell direct to select customers. This may seem a riskier strategy for customers but sometimes it can reap dividends. One collector picked up the most exquisite carved wooden cabinet from a dealer. Covered in beautiful hand-carved birds and animals, it was apparently discarded by a temple and was in very poor condition. Now lovingly restored, it is simply stunning – a unique piece that may otherwise have ended up on a scrap heap.

deer figures
I couldn't resist this pair of deer figures

wedgewood stamp
The Wedgewood stamp on the bottom of the lighter
wedgewood antique lighter
Wedgewood lighters like this one can be found on EBay for between $10 and $50

Becoming a genuine collector takes patience, study and money but there’s something for everyone out there. You don’t have to invest massive amounts or hold out for a genuine antique. These markets are full of interesting, quirky items that are much more distinctive than many of the home décor items available around town. Second-hand doesn’t have to mean second-rate. 

antique vases and silverware
Lots to choose from

This piece by editor-in-chief Salima Feerasta first appeared on Dawn.com

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