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My Exquisite Angel

Stumbling Across the Perfect Antique Christmas Decoration

Browsing in my town's antique handler a few years ago, I stumbled across something of rare beauty: an antique Christmas decoration still carefully wrapped in its original packaging. I'm no stranger to antiquing and I appreciate a rare find when I'm lucky enough to come across one. This particular discovery was unique and quite exquisite. I asked the dealer what she was asking for the piece with all the nonchalance I could muster. I almost swooned with excitement as I registered the words "Twenty bucks." I'm not sure I managed to prevent my hand trembling as I handed over a creased 20 dollar bill. I should probably have tried to haggle to allay the dealer's suspicions - it's never a good idea to appear too keen. I hastily backed away from the counter cradling my antique Christmas decoration - a tiny, perfectly crafted angel - and bore her home.

Some hours later, when I'd finished my delicate restoration and cleaning work, I was able to sit back and admire my find. Perched on a simple golden plinth surrounded by an elegant filigree sat a tiny angel. The ornament was in perfect condition except for an empty ring just below the angel's perch which bespoke of a missing bell. I pulled down a couple of reference books from my top shelf, dusted them off (it's not that often I find an antique exciting enough to look up) and started digging around for information. What I discovered left me sprawled on the sofa, book across my knees in need of a stiff drink. My exquisite little angel was probably brought into this world at the turn of the nineteenth century. It was also a real collector's item. As soon as the great day arrived, my antique angel was given pride of place atop the family Christmas tree.

It doesn't happen often, but finds such as this antique Christmas decoration do show up in antique stores, at auctions, or even flea markets, usually when you are least expecting it. It was August when I found my angel. Had it been November, the dealer would have displayed it in a prominent position with a correspondingly high price tag, and someone else would have snapped it up on the lookout for the perfect top to their tree before I had the chance of a look in. When I found it, this genuine antique Christmas decoration had slipped to the back of a dusty lower shelf. All I needed was a keen eye

Although antiquing is a subjective pasttime - what catches my eye may have you running for the sink - in the case of my angel the books bore me out. My had procured a single antique Christmas decoration valued conservatively at 5. Although the thought of parting with my angel makes me shudder, establishing its current market value was a vindication of my good fortune, and revealing the piece's value at the end of the story every time I tell the it to friends always causes a very satisfying gasp around the table.

I have realised that I'm particularly drawn to antique Christmas decorations. The high level of craftsmanship that has gone into creating something small, unique and only of use two weeks a year never fails to move me. There is something irrestibly decadent about owning the product of someone else's skill and talent, when my own skills are limited to opening Christmas presents without getting too many paper cuts.

I get a lot of pleasure contemplating the focus and energy required to produce something so exquisite, so unique by hand. Many of my Christmas decorations are of the usual, instantly recognisable mass-produced type. There is, of course, something comforting about using decorations that everyone can recognise and relate to, but it is the antique decorations that capture the imagination.

By placing my tiny angel on top of the family Christmas tree every year, I feel I'm keeping something of the spirit of a slower, more contemplative age alive. I think that when the hustle and bustle of the Christmas rush is over and the children are safely tucked in bed, there is nothing better than sitting beside the tree, a glass of single malt in hand, letting the stories and memories of a less commercial Christmas, a less commercial age, seep into my bones. And this is the kind of Romantic view of occasion that fuels my acquisitive forrays into antique stores and auctions on the look out for the perfect antique Christmas decoration.

About the Author: Eoin Beckett is a freelance writer and editor. He writes both short fiction and non-fiction for both online and print publications. Although he stems from Ireland, he currently lives and works in Copenhagen, Denmark.

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