Antique Victorian Fireplace Buying Guide

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Antique Victorian Fireplace Buying Guide

From the dining table to the wall clock, new decorative styles were developed for household items during the Victorian age. A significant application of art and design was put into the fireplace, the heart of the home. Styles like Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts brought intricate and creative new designs to the traditionally functional fireplace. This guide outlines some of the basic elements of an antique Victorian fireplace, some of the most popular styles of fireplaces of the time, and methods to care for an antique Victorian fireplace.

History of Victorian Fireplaces

Heat is a basic human necessity and as such, simple fireplaces have been around since the existence of prehistoric man. Domestic fireplaces reached a new standard in the eighteenth century from the creation of Count Rumford, who designed a fireplace with a taller insert, which drew smoke up and out of a room more effectively than previous designs. All later models are variations on Rumford's initial design. Fireplaces in the home have been used for warmth, cooking, ambiance and as a general gathering space. With the emergence of a wealthy middle class in the Victorian period, the home became a place in which to display wealth, class and taste to guests and family. Ornate details to the mantel, insert and chimney pieces became highly fashionable, hitting a peak in the later Victorian period. Generally, public rooms for guests would have the most ornate and imposing fireplaces, while bedrooms and servant chambers would have smaller and simpler styled fireplaces. In the mid-twentieth century, many traditional fireplaces were removed from houses with as the rise of other kinds of household heating systems marked the end of the popularity of ornate fireplaces.

Discover Antique Victorian Fireplaces

Antique Victorian fireplaces can add a touch of charm and warmth to any room in a home. The sturdy, cast-iron construction of an antique Victorian fireplace insert can last for a long time while providing intricate, elegant style. Available in many varieties, antique Victorian fireplaces feature different designs and functional elements that can suit the needs of any room. As an antique, defined as over 100 years old, a well-cared for Victorian fireplace can appreciate in value with time and serve as an excellent collector's item. Installing an antique Victorian fireplace is a great way to bring the fashions of Art Nouveau or other Victorian design styles to a home. A fascinating representation of the decorative arts movement in the Victorian period, an antique Victorian fireplace is an emblem of art history combined with traditional functionality.

Components of an Antique Victorian Fireplace

An antique Victorian fireplace typically comprises an insert and surround. However, there are other components that may be included in other varieties of antique Victorian fireplaces which are listed here as well.

Part

Description

Surround

Consists of the mantelpiece and front side supports of the fireplace. Typically made with wood, limestone or marble.

Insert (or firebox)

Usually made with cast iron, the insert is where the fire burns. Common styles are arched, tiled or square-fronted inserts.

Hearth

A hearth in an antique Victorian fireplace usually refers to the bottom of a fireplace, which extends out beyond the fireplace itself. It can be made with tiled ceramic, a slab of granite or another type of stone.

Mantel shelf

The decorative upper part of the surround that can hold items like picture frames, a clock or Christmas stockings.

Tiles

Decorative tiles made of ceramic, marble or other fine materials that were set into the surround. Reaching the level of high art in the Victorian era, tiles were an expensive and luxurious addition to a household fireplace.

Finish

The finish on the surround and hearth of a cast-iron fireplace. Often a full polish, highlight or black finish.

Combination fireplaces

Popular in the Victorian period, combination fireplaces included the insert, surround, mantel and grate, and sometimes other components as well.

Types of Antique Victorian Fireplaces

The decorative elements of an antique Victorian fireplace are often the highlight of the fireplace itself. Here is an outline of some of the most popular fireplace styles of the period.

Type

Description

Victorian

Usually small, arched fireplace openings with highly ornate details, especially floral designs and curved lines. This intricate style became even more pronounced in the later Victorian period.

English Arts and Crafts

Longer proportions on the side and centralised detailing. These are generally larger fireplaces with a rounded feel, often using more casual, homey materials like bricks.

Art Nouveau

Popular in the later Victorian period, Art Nouveau fireplace designs feature sinuous, floral detailing on the legs, canopy and frieze of the fireplace insert.

Factors to Consider When Buying an Antique Victorian Fireplace

When buying an antique Victorian fireplace, it is a good idea to consider the style and condition of the fireplace in fitting with the rest of the room.

  • Style – There are many styles of antique Victorian fireplaces to choose from, with varying degrees of decorative elements featured in them. Choose a fireplace that suits the decor and function of the room. For example, the living room will probably need a larger, more decorative fireplace, while a bedroom will do best with a smaller, simpler style.
  • Condition – Check for broken tiles and hard grime on an antique Victorian fireplace. There are fireplace restorers that can usually fix these problems. However, it could be costly to repair.
  • Combination fireplace or individual insert and surround – During the later Victorian period, combination fireplaces became a more popular and affordable option for most people, as it included the insert and surround. When deciding to buy an antique Victorian fireplace, the insert and surround can either be bought individually or in the combination form.

Typical Features of an Antique Victorian Fireplace

Look for some of these general features of an antique Victorian fireplace, which sets it apart from more modern or older styles.

Cast-iron insert

The most common feature of an antique Victorian fireplace is the cast-iron insert, or firebox. This is where the fire burns, so it must be made of a long-lasting, flame-resistant material. Cast iron inserts can range in design, from intricate to simple.

Surround made of fine materials

Being the most visible part of the fireplace, a surround was often made of highly-prized materials such as marble, softwood or limestone. There could be carvings or other decorative details, such as tiles, on the surround to add another element of style to the room.

Decorative tiles

Fireplace tiles reached the level of fine art in the Victorian period. Displayed on the surround and canopy of a fireplace, antique fireplace tiles could show the styles of Arts and Craft, Art Nouveau and more.

How to Care for an Antique Victorian Fireplace

Caring for an antique Victorian fireplace depends largely on the materials that the fireplace and surrounding components are made of.

General upkeep of a used fireplace can be accomplished with a vacuum brush, which can suck up the soot and dirt from old fires. For a cast-iron insert that's been vacuumed, scrubbing with a damp cloth or brush can help remove the remaining stuck-on soot. After removing soot, rubbing iron polish into the iron with a soft cloth can finish the process.

For the surround, treatment depends on the materials. A wood surround will require a wood polish specific to the type of wood – read product instructions to see which wood suits the type of wood polish. Marble and ceramic tiled surrounds can be cleaned with a damp cloth.

Accessories and Add-ons for Antique Victorian Fireplaces

There are many accessories that are required with an antique Victorian fireplace.

  • Fireplace screen
  • Logs
  • Grate
  • Companion set including a poker, bellow, tongs, shovel, brush and tool stand.
  • Fender
  • Coal bucket
  • Matches holder

Finding an Antique Victorian Fireplace on eBay

Once you determine the type of antique Victorian fireplaces you want to purchase, visit the Antiques portal on eBay, click on 'Architectural Antiques', then 'Fireplaces' and start searching item listings. The Categories list on the left-hand side of the eBay page helps to narrow the search.

Searching for an Antique Victorian Fireplaceon eBay

Search eBay listing titles for specific words when shopping for an antique Victorian fireplace. For example, to find a hand-carved oak antique Victorian fireplace, type 'hand carved oak antique Victorian fireplace' into the search box, and then click the Advanced button to customise the results. Also visit eBay’s Search Tips page for more advice on searching for an antique Victorian fireplace with keywords. If you can’t find the exact antique Victorian fireplace you want, try shopping eBay Stores.

Conclusion

Antique Victorian fireplaces bring a touch of beauty and elegance to any room. Functional and decorative, they come in a variety of styles and designs so they can accurately match a room's decor. It is helpful to learn about the general parts of an antique Victorian fireplace, the styles available and the care and accessories required before buying the fireplace. Once you have collected this information, you can buy an antique Victorian fireplace safely and securely on eBay.

 
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