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Antique garden ornaments are highly sought after both for display inside and outside. They can add an interesting touch to your garden design whether you have a large outdoor space or a more modest garden. 

Ornaments can help you create an eye-catching display that is unique and special to you. Even a single ornament can have a big impact and help you enhance your garden design.

But where do you start? Here are some helpful tips when it comes to buying and looking after vintage garden ornaments.

Are antique garden ornaments valuable?

Many antique garden ornaments are valuable and will increase in value over time, making them a good investment. As with any antiques, some factors will impact their value, including age, size and condition. 

Ornaments that are in better condition are likely to fetch more, which can pose a challenge if they have been kept outside for several decades. A degree of weathering is expected, but the less the better when it comes to value. 

The age of the ornaments will also affect their value along with their provenance. In some cases, the age and provenance will increase their value even if the condition is not great. This was seen with some garden ornaments that turned out to be sphinxes from ancient Egypt. Although the condition was very worn and they had suffered damage, the age of the statues meant they fetched £200,000 at auction. 

If ornaments come with proof of provenance, this will also increase the value, as it shows potential buyers their age and original location. This can be a receipt for the purchase that details where and when it was bought or an appraisal from an expert. 

What vintage garden ornaments are worth investing in?

There is no right answer to the type of antique garden ornaments that are worth investing in. Personal preference plays a big part, after all, it will be displayed in your garden so you want to like it. Anything from intricate lion statues to simple troughs can be a good investment and may increase in value over the years.

If you are buying garden ornaments purely as an investment, it is a good idea to look at their age, condition and if there is proof of provenance. You may also want to consider ornaments created by named artists, although these are likely to require a larger investment to start with. 

It’s also worth doing some research into the style of ornament you are considering, as many may have originally come as a pair. Many garden ornaments depicting animals, such as eagles, lions, leopards and dogs, are likely to have started off as a pair so will not be worth as much as a single statue.

Should I clean or restore antique garden ornaments?

Being subjected to the elements can mean that garden ornaments get dirty or end up with moss and lichen growing on them. In some cases, this can add to their character, but you want to ensure that your ornaments are not being damaged further. 

Cleaning vintage garden ornaments is fairly easy to do. Start by brushing away any moss, lichen or dirt with a brush, being careful not to brush too hard, especially if your ornament is made of a soft stone. This will allow you to see if there is any damage that could worsen with a full clean.

You can then use environmentally-friendly dish soap (harsher detergents could damage the ornament or your garden) and water to clean the ornament, using either a soft cloth or a brush. Wash the soap residue away carefully with your garden hose on a low setting. You should avoid using a power washer on antique garden ornaments as this can cause damage. Finish by simply allowing the ornament to air dry.

Where should I put vintage garden ornaments?

Realistically, you can put your garden ornaments anywhere you like in your garden or home. They are made to be outside so can generally withstand a lot. 

However, it’s a good idea to ensure they are on stable ground that doesn’t flood or get boggy. If you want to preserve them as much as possible but still enjoy them, try positioning your ornaments in a sheltered area so they are less likely to be damaged or worn by the weather. You may want to look at options for securing your ornaments but this can result in damage and reduce their value. 

If you live in an area that experiences wind, snow and ice, you’ll need to take precautions during winter to protect your ornaments. They should be raised off the ground rather than kept on bare soil or grass to stop them from freezing to the ground. Permanent cement footings are a good idea, as this will stop them from freezing and ensure they are stable. 

If your ornament is a container - such as an urn, birdbath or fountain - you should empty it of water and soil before the first frost. It should then be covered or laid on its side to prevent the build-up of snow and ice, which can cause damage. 

Ornaments that are made of composite stone or marble are especially prone to winter damage. This is because water can get into cracks on the surface, which then expand as the water freezes. Covering these ornaments with tarps and ensuring they don’t sit in snow will avoid further cracking and crumbling.