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Stew Cues: Priceless collectibles on board require special care

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Stew Cues: by Alene Keenan

People collect things. People on yachts gather expensive things, and we take care of them. Porcelain, ceramics and art glass are favorite items. The value of collectibles is generally decided by what people are willing to pay, but craftsmanship, reputation, and emotional significance are essential considerations. Whatever the monetary value is, though, the emotional worth is priceless.

Design, history, and artistry add interest and importance. Handcrafted pieces are unique, even in a repeated design series. Small differences add character and value. Here are a few examples of individual artists with a reputation for quality or exclusivity. Contemporary American glass sculptor Dale Chihuly and stained glass artist and jeweler Louis Comfort Tiffany are familiar names to those who enjoy the beauty of glass work. Many are surprised to learn that the famous painter Pablo Picasso produced hundreds of ceramic pieces. Spanish company Lladro is renowned for porcelain art and figurines.

Art pieces on board may have been chosen by interior designers or owners, or they may be gifts to owners from grateful guests. Luxury shops and boutiques around marinas are great places to find a dazzling display of porcelain and glass jewelry and art pieces. One familiar maker of high-quality crystal jewelry, figurines and home décor found on board many yachts is Swarovski.

Daniel Swarovski gained fame in Austria in the 1890s by fashioning high-quality cut-glass crystals made of quartz, sand and minerals. The proportions of the raw materials used remain a company secret. They are precisely fashioned using a machine to create pieces that sparkle and shine.

Another well-known brand frequently seen is Lalique glass. Rene Lalique was a French Art Noveau jewelry designer in the early 1900s. He became one of the most famous makers of art glass objects, including perfume bottles, vases, statues, bookends and paperweights. Lalique also designed interiors for ships, railroad cars and hotels. Today, Lalique pieces grace many a home and yacht.

Caring for collectibles on board is a meticulous task. First, check insurance policies to see if art pieces should be handled, or if a conservator needs to be brought in. If it is safe to do so, care for and clean these objects gently. Wear cotton gloves to avoid fingerprints. Always handle by holding the sturdy part of a piece. If you are bringing a collection down from a shelf, line a square plastic container or tray with a towel. Pick up each piece separately, place carefully on the cloth and take to a stable work area. Use a soft, high-quality, natural-bristle makeup brush to gently dust corners and crevices of each piece, then wipe with a soft cotton cloth.

It is not necessary to wet and wash every item. Some things are not meant to be submerged. Water can loosen glue. Never use harsh or abrasive cleaners. If there is any sticky residue, spray a light mist of good quality glass cleaner onto your right glove. Hold the piece in your left hand and use the right glove to wipe away marks.

Some objects may be safely cleaned in a mild solution of one quart of warm water and 2 drops of dish detergent. Never leave pieces to soak. Instead, dip the piece into the water and hold with one hand. Use a soft brush in the other to clean the submerged part. Rinse in clear, fresh water and set on a cloth to dry. Once it has dried, buff away any water spots with a soft, lint-free cotton cloth or clean white cotton gloves.

Many people collect things to bring back pleasant memories. With proper care, the memory is preserved and happiness is increased.

In the words of John Keats, “A thing of beauty is a joy forever: Its loveliness increases; it will never pass into nothingness.”

Alene Keenan is former lead instructor of interior courses at Maritime Professional Training in Fort Lauderdale. She shares more than 20 years experience as a stew in her book, “The Yacht Guru’s Bible: The Service Manual for Every Yacht,” available at yachtstewsolutions.com. Comments are welcome below.

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