While writing the post Brassed Off!, I was reminded of an antiques dealer I worked for in my early career as a restorer in England. Occasionally I would have to cast up individual brasses to replace those missing on fine antique furniture and I always went to great lengths to finish the brasses so they matched those around them. As a bit of fun, I would often challenge customers and dealers to detect the copies on their finished furniture.
At the first occurrence with one crusty dealer I had begun restoring for; he pointed at a handle on a freshly restored chest-on-chest that I delivered back to his shop and proclaimed “That’s the new one!” He was incorrect and so, I pointed out the actual replacement. He snorted “No it’s not, it’s that one” (pointing again at the one he had indicated initially). Every time thereafter, he would tap one of the brasses and, correct or not, I would always nod in the affirmative. He would smile knowingly and write me out a cheque against my bill.
Years later, when I was a dealer in my own right, I bumped into this former employer at an auction at Sotheby’s in the very lovely Summers Place on the outskirts of Billingshurst in Sussex. We reminisced about some of the outstanding pieces of furniture we had handled together and we had a long chat about the ‘good old days’ and which of the rogues in the trade were still around and which of them had turned their toes up.
Before we parted, the dealer placed his hand on my shoulder and said “You remember I could always tell which of the brasses you had reproduced?” Not wanting to offend him with the truth, I pretended I didn’t recall. He continued “Every time, after you had departed, I would remove the handle to see if my assertion was correct and on more than one occasion, I ended up with all the handles in disaray on the floor and had to call Stuart [another restorer] to come in and put them back on for me”.