By Dmitry Tamoikin
I’m a big fan of gold in all of its beautiful forms, from bullion and coins to jewelry and antiques. Then again, who isn’t? However, in my experience, as the president of the Tamoikin Art Fund and the founder of the Soviet Jewelry project, ancient gold or as I like to call it “ancient aurum” is one of the best assets to own. Why so?
Before I answer this question I would like to clarify, in this article the term “ancient aurum” will refer to all types of gold antiques, some of which may not always be ancient. I also wish to make it absolutely clear that, when it comes to investing in actual gold artifacts, the only acceptable standard is 110% verifiable legal ownership. If a rarity does not meet this standard, we don’t touch it, and neither should you. I will say more about this at the end of the article. Just understand that, outside of state museums, there aren’t many legally acquired private gold artifacts in the world with documents and public exposure to prove it. Those that do are extremely valuable appreciative assets. Our art fund is one of the few non-government organizations that owns such verified ancient aurum. We proudly display it by: organizing public, private and virtual exhibitions; publishing books and catalogues; contributing unique images to Wikipedia and through many other creative ways. Unfortunately, not many art market participants follow in our footsteps, mainly because their gold items are in the grey zone, with unknown provenance, or downright illegally acquired from black archeologists [a.k.a. criminals].
With this article it is my desire to reach as many owners of legally acquired artifacts and through our example show that you don’t have to be in hiding anymore. With proper documentation and safety measures you can let your treasure shine without fear of theft or confiscation. Keeping your legal treasure undocumented under the mattress serves no one, and exposes you to theft or seizure without compensation – as if you never had it. This is what this article all about; inspiring legal owners, responsible investors and collectors of ancient aurum to step into the light. The art market needs you, investors crave for you, the world heritage depends on you!
Now, back to the question before us – why is ancient gold such an attractive investment? Three reasons. It is gold. It is rare. It is historic. Now let’s explore each of these short and powerful statements.
It is gold. No matter how ancient any gold item is, it’s still that very same gold that is found in the gold bullion. Yes, it’s in a different shape and of different purity but no matter how you look at it, it will always be that same gold. There’s nothing stopping you from refining it to its purest state of 24K or even 999.999 should you wish, other than perhaps a sense of guilt for destroying a rare artifact in the process. In fact, this unfortunately happens every day all over the world at the gold recycling facilities. Among the tons of unwanted or broken modern jewelry, there are incredible gold antiques and collectibles that get recycled as well. Also, criminals seek out and sometimes successfully steal antique gold rarities, only to melt them down and sell as scrap gold. Surprisingly, there is an upside to this misfortune, which brings me to the next point.
It is rare. Every gold antique or artifact is very rare, regardless whether it was mass produced or made as a one-of-a-kind artwork. I cannot emphasize this enough – the likelihood of any gold rarity surviving for hundreds and even thousands of years of human progress, wars, migrations and natural disasters is extremely low. That is why truly ancient aurum is very valuable. As I like to say, “Time may heal all wounds but it spares no rarity”. Gold items breakdown, get lost, destroyed, recycled and eventually vanish. On some occasions, as I’ve said, this destruction is expedited by humans. Every artifact that is destroyed worldwide, makes all others evermore rare. Theft of ancient aurum often gets into the headlines, attracting positive attention to these valuable assets. The mere fact that the media picks up these stories, proves how attractive gold antiques and collectibles are. Just to be clear, I’m not saying that theft of gold artifacts is a good thing. We have been fighting art crime for over a decade; my father was attacked and kidnapped for this. However, I cannot deny that these assets will grow in value when misfortune strikes their kin. That’s just the rarity factor at work.
Every ancient aurum admirer must understand that those rarities that survive to this day have been tested by time. They have proven their worth generation after generation and often to multiple civilizations. More collectors are realizing that gold artifacts, antiques and collectibles are the future of the global art market. That is why we, as an art fund, are seeing a clear trend of declining interest in contemporary artworks and increasing interest in antique gold. In fact, many investors are now selling their modern art [value of which they feel has been artificially inflated] specifically to buy precious metal antiques.
It must be said, that if any collector or gold investor is concerned for the safety of their current or future gold assets, the solution is simple – put it in a bank. However, before putting it there, at least be sure to do the following:
- HD photographs from all angles;
- Hidden ID markers [to secure the identity of your rarity];
- Establish provenance;
- Register ownership;
- Perform authentication;
- Get appaisal and insurance.
With or without such documentation, do keep your gold in a long-lasting bank, a private vault, a reputable art fund or at minimum in a hidden high-quality safety box. Bank safety deposit boxes are often the least expensive option as they cost around $150-500 per year, depending on the size of the box. Rent a few.
It is historic. Although one leads to another, it is important to separate rarity and history. Many brand-new items can be rare, which certainly adds to their value, but not always does a rare item have history behind it. Ancient aurum does. Every gold antique, just by the mere fact that it is an antique, has a unique and often incredible history behind it. That history could be personal, or it could be of an entire civilization.
Historic gold can be divided into two categories – rarities with hallmarks and rarities without. Sometime in the 1200s, hallmarks started to appear as the earliest form of consumer protection. These hallmarks were fairly well cataloged over time and can tell the owner the historic origins of their asset. If your ancient aurum is so ancient that it predates hallmarks – all the better. You are in the possession of a truly historic work of art. A qualified archeologist at your local museum will help you positively identify what century and civilization it belonged to, as well as explain the historical significance of your rarity. There were gold antiques that were made without any hallmarks, even after hallmarks were introduced. Those antiques are no less valuable and simply demand more research into the history of what most likely are still very unique items.
Finally, when it comes to the history of your aurum – you have to look for it, you have to ask for it, you have to demand it. If you inherited an item, ask your relatives how they got it. If you bought it, request provenance prior to the payment. Demand documents and document everything. Sometimes the history may start with you and your research. Take this task seriously; good research, provenance and documentation adds historical, cultural and financial value to your gold asset.
I would like to conclude with the following message: Make sure that all the gold antiques and especially artifacts that you buy – are legal! You don’t want a stolen or illegally excavated gold. It will bring you nothing but trouble from the authorities. Understand your local laws and abide by them. Don’t support “black archeologists” who loot and destroy national and world heritage. Demand, Demand, Demand provenance and history on each asset. Do your own due diligence and research into the legality of an artifact that interests you. I cannot tell you how many times we were offered shady gold rarities that we refused to deal with. The art market desperately needs more responsible buyers, sellers, dealers, collectors and investors in legally acquired ancient aurum – and where there’s a need, there’s great potential for success!
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