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Armory Antiques Show Lures Collectors

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Louis Comfort Tiffany is best known as the decorative artist who created works of stained glass, including lamps, vases and jewelry. But for antiques collectors, Tiffany’s lesser known and larger works, such as the leaded-glass windows hanging in New York’s Park Avenue Armory, provide the most astonishing evidence of his individual genius.

This weekend, lovers of Tiffany and all things antique and artistic have one last chance to see those windows along with many other one-of-a-kind works at the Armory’s Winter Antiques Show 2013, where a New York mix of young art and design enthusiasts, connected gallery owners and seasoned high-net-worth collectors crowd together to look at—and shop for—museum-quality historic works.

For example, on view at the Geoffrey Diner Gallery’s booth is a Tiffany fire screen made in 1905 of favrile glass and wrought iron. The fire screen was once the property of the Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, N.Y., but it was “deacquisitioned,” in antique dealers’ parlance, and is now available for sale at a cool $2 million or so.

“This is an absolutely stunning piece. This is a tour de force object,” said Jennifer Garland Ross, managing director for art advisory and appraisal consortium Art Peritus, during a Tuesday press tour of some of the Winter Antiques Show’s delights prior to a cocktail party sponsored by the Chubb Group of Insurance Companies.

(Gallery owner Geoffrey Diner said a couple of collectors showed interest in the piece but then backed away after hearing the price.)

The Tiffany work is also a stunningly good example of why collectors need to protect and preserve their antiques and get appraisals for them, said Kathleen Tierney, executive vice president of Chubb & Son and chief operating officer of Chubb Personal Insurance.

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“You don’t want to be telling the claims adjuster why your art is special at the time of claim,” Tierney observed in an interview after Garland Ross’ tour.

New collectors are especially prone to being surprised by the depth of the process involved in appraising and protecting antiques, she said. For example, Chubb’s services include assistance with display, lighting, safety and travel of precious works, plus specialized loss-prevention analysis such as infrared thermography.

Chubb is no stranger to the Armory. Headquartered in Warren, N.J., the multibillion-dollar global property and casualty insurance firm has sponsored the Winter Antiques Show’s loan exhibitions for 17 years.

In addition to the goodwill it engenders, Chubb’s sponsorships bring together high-net-worth individuals, brokers, wealth management companies, family offices and other “communities of interest,” Tierney said. “The Armory show is a social community but also helps drive value and establish markets.”

That community was the size of a small town on Tuesday, when 1,600 antiques lovers showed up at Chubb’s cocktail shindig to nibble appetizers, sip champagne and gorge themselves on objets.

Read a column from Chubb’s Kathleen Tierney, “Are All Your HNW Clients’ Assets Disaster-Ready?,  at AdvisorOne.