1stdibs: The world’s largest online marketplace for luxury goods

Whether you’ve got money to burn or you simply want to escape for a few hours of fantasy browsing, 1stdibs.com likely has what you seek.

folk art whirligig  This rare New England mermaid whirligig dates to circa 1880. Made of wood and polychrome, the whirligig features a hand-painted face with nail remnants along the hairline, metal paddles and a hinged tail made to move with the wind. Measuring 18 inches high by 13 inches long, the all-original piece is mounted on a custom base and carries a price tag of $22,500 from 1stdibs seller Just Folk. Photo courtesy Just Folk

The world’s largest online luxury marketplace, 1stdibs.com offers collectors, connoisseurs, design professionals and affluent consumers “The Most Beautiful Things on Earth” at the click of a mouse.

An impressive selection of couture, antiques, furniture, sculpture, paintings, photography, drawings and watercolors, watches, jewelry and even fine homes, are all searchable by keyword, creator, location, style, period and price.

This shoppers’ paradise, founded by Michel Bruno in 2001 while living in Paris, offers collections from thousands of prestigious dealers around the world.

Vetted for their experience, knowledge, reputations and credibility, these professionals are the cornerstone of 1stdibs.com’s success.

This article originally appeared in Antique Trader magazine

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Most recently, selected dealers from the Benelux region, including Amsterdam, Antwerp and Brussels, have joined the site.

Israel themed watch  1stdibs dealer Matthew Bain Inc. offers this classic International Watch Co. wristwatch in rose gold with a snap-on case back, heavy fancy lugs, acrylic crystal and caliber 89 manual wind movement (price undisclosed). What is so unusual about this 1950s vintage Swiss watch is the cloisonné dial with a design honoring the Israeli flag.

“We now represent the vast majority of the best dealers in the best markets in the U.S., so now was the time to do the same thing in Benelux,” Bruno explains. “I have always liked working with the dealers in this region; I shopped there often when living in Paris. They have amazing style and taste and often set global trends. They are very professional merchants and a pleasure to deal with, all very important attributes when we are considering new markets.”

In the future, he looks forward to expanding this market to the Scandinavia region as well as Italy, France, Spain and other European countries.

1stdibs.com markets hundreds of 20th century tables, for example, in a wide range of prices, shapes and sizes. Designers who seek rustic tables will discover such examples as Lillian August Antiquaire’s French oak at $2,590, Linda Rosen Antiques’ country sawbuck at $3,900 and Oldplank.com’s “Phenomenal French Walnut Farm table w/Trestle and Fleur de Lis” at $17,900.

Those seeking game tables may consider design/one’s Lucite game table at $4,500, Duane’s lacquered goatskin game table by Karl Springer at $8,000 or Pat Monroe’s Continental Neoclassical fruitwood and ebonized games table at $11,000.

High-end collectors will also find a wealth of desirable items, like ceramic apothecary bottles found off the South China Sea, an early 20th century Amish doll, a Han Dynasty terra cotta horse, a hand-painted circa 1880 folk art mermaid whirligig or Art Deco art glass.

Those seeking jewelry may find such enticing delights as a rose gold watch featuring a dial with a cloisonné Israeli flag (price undisclosed), an antique Russian bloodstone Jewish seal ring, valued at $3,600, or a medieval-style men’s gold ring, at $38,000.

Professionally curated searches, which are arranged by period and regions, offer another exciting alternative. So do 1stdibs.com’s cleverly-named curated themes, including Guys Get, Tea For Two, Wild Kingdom and Era of the Dragon — each a world in itself.

Their ‘Girls Will Be Boys’ theme, for example, “explores menswear themes in clothing design and the trend toward androgyny for both men and women.”

By the Fire, on any given day, may offer a hearth-warming, copper and iron handmade apple butter kettle, a white cowhide rug or an original, vintage, wooden American snow sled, each at under $2,000.

The Library, along with first editions, offers reading lamps, letter clips, library ladders and globes both terrestrial and celestial.

Lacquered goatskin game table  Dating to circa 1968, this lacquered goatskin game table was designed by Karl Springer in the United States. Measuring 29 inches tall by 36 inches wide by 36 inches long, the table is composed of lacquered goatskin with brass details and felt lining. The first bidder to offer $8,000 offer to 1stdibs seller DUANE will take this game table home.

Purchasing is easy. A single click conveniently directs buyers to dealer websites, which, in addition to displaying prices and offering additional views, offer comprehensive item descriptions.

Most printed prices, however, like those in Middle Eastern markets, can be negotiated directly with dealers. 1stdibs.com remains true to its word: The first offer received at the full asking price gets “1stdibs.”

So, finding that perfect inkwell to accentuate your $37,000 Leif Rococo secretary should be easy. Yet, with so many sumptuous choices — and with thousands of new items released to the site each week — choosing among glass-bubbled, brass, bronze, silver, porcelain, lacquered, faience, horn, tortoise shell, marble and rose quartz inkwells from all eras in all shapes and sizes imaginable, ranging in price from a few hundred to more than $20,000 each, may prove daunting.

To counter this, as well as extend the design experience, 1stdibs.com invites visitors to enjoy an array of user-friendly, editorial features. The site’s weekly online magazine, Introspective, available on site and via email, offers hands-on industry reviews with leading dealers, interior designers and internationally known journalists. Style Compass, one of its leading components, profiles influential people, places and events that influence the designing world. ‘Saturday Shopping With’ spotlights interior designers, with whom 1stdibs maintains close contact, as they offer their favorite picks directly to online visitors.

Grand tour inkwell  This Rare Grand Tour inkwell was made in France circa 1800. Measuring 6 inches high by 7 inches deep by 11 1/5 inches long, the patinated bronze and Rouge Royal marble inkwell carries a price tag of $4,500 from 1stdibs dealer Milord Antiques.

Through City Search, dealers from around the world offer their own items directly to 1stdibs.com customers. City Search also offers “store tours,” which allow shoppers to arrange individual tours of City Search dealers, defined by geographic location. For customer convenience, 1stdibs.com can also, for a 20 percent additional charge, facilitate City Search transactions on the buyers’ behalf, by helping negotiate the best prices on most items, obtaining shipping rates and arranging payment in local currency.

In House Hunting, readers join noted designers as they explore 1stdibs.com’s prestigious Corcoran Group and Coldwell 
Banker Preferred Properties, which range from modest abodes beginning at barely $1 million to $17 million apartments in the heart of Paris and Beverly Hills and “castles” marketed at nearly $50 million.

Creators introduce contemporary artists like Maria Pergay, Seaman Schepps, and Poul Kjaerholm, along with exciting examples of their works. On Location invites around-the-world readers to virtually visit noted art exhibitions and antique shows, like the “moody, layered abstractions” of Jimmie James that currently “wash the walls” of 1stdibs.com’s 10th-floor, 33,000-square-foot gallery at the New York Design Center, through June 5, 2012.

Curated searches highlight luxury items selected from the top 1stdibs.com U.S. and overseas dealers. Shop Talk offers interviews with influential professional designers, as well as enlightening visits to 1stdibs.com’s brick-and-mortar dealer shops around the world.

Each month, more than 2 million visitors browse more than 55 million images of 1stdibs.com’s luxurious marketplace.

According to HarvardBusiness.org, “1stdibs has now become the leading source to search for antiques and mid-modern furniture, outpacing both traditional auction houses Sotheby’s and Christie’s, and offering a higher quality experience than eBay.”

Melody Amsel-Arieli is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to Antique Trader. She is the author of “Between Galicia and Hungary: The Jews of Stropkov.” She lives in Israel.

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