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BenjaminSavage

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Reply with quote  #1 
There is a lot of debate over the value and quality of antique items versus newly created items. I am interested to hear everyone's information and arguments for and against both old and new.

IS older better? If so, why?

Where can people even find old pieces these days? Have we largely exhausted the antique market?

Are the new "Sonic Energy" pieces made by Meinl valid modern additions to the lineage? Are "snowflake" items ideal, or is there a benefit to a reliable and more uniform product?

How can we as the purchasers and promoters of these items proceed responsibly and in a way that builds a bright future for these instruments and those who use them?

I have been informed that "it is illegal for sellers in Tibet, China and Nepal to export genuine antiquities from their country of origin. Selling genuine antique items to foreigners is considered to be plundering the cultural heritage of the country and is severely punished under national and international law. Sentences for convicted "smugglers" include lengthy imprisonments and even execution.

EBay sellers based out of Tibet, China or Nepal claiming to offer genuine antiques or valuable "old" and "ancient" items are selling fakes - recently-made modern items finished to look like antiques. While these items may be appealing, don't be fooled into paying a higher price for them than they are actually worth."

So how do we all proceed? What do you all think?

© 2016 Benjamin Savage
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Throatsinger

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Reply with quote  #2 
What are "snowflake" items?
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Kit

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Reply with quote  #3 
what definition of antique are they using? Any artifact over the age of 50? Or something older than that?
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RichG

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Reply with quote  #4 

I too wondered what "snowflake" items are?

And the thing about it being illegal to sell antiques to foreigners..... and severe punishment under "international law" doesn't seem right to me.
If so, there must be an exclusion for the bowls. I imagine Mitch could answer this accurately.

Regarding the quality of antique bowls versus new ones:
In my limited experience I've heard good and bad antiques and good and bad new ones, but the best antique bowls have always been better than the best new ones, and in general have been superior. And there have been plenty of substandard quality new bowls around for a long time. It's always a little awkward when someone proudly shows me their "amazing new Tibetan bowl" and then they hit it and the sound coming from it is only slightly better than a dull thud - and then I have to find something nice to say about it - not "Wow, I've got pot lids that sound better than that!" And again, there are some really fine quality new bowls being made for sure.

Others here I am sure have more to say about it thank I do.


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BenjaminSavage

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Reply with quote  #5 
By "snowflake" I mean one-of-a-kind items; rare, high quality versions within a larger, standard whole collection/family of a certain item. Such as the rarer Chinese gongs that have impeccable tunings and resonant qualities, relative to the plethora that are so-so. These "snowflakes" are rare due to a lot of factors, especially evident in hand-hammered, and hand-made items.

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kpujals

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Reply with quote  #6 
Hi! My first post to the forum, thanks for the link Benjamin!

First, I have a Sonic Energy gong from Meinl, it was actually my first gong. When I started acquiring others, I really thought the Meinl was going to have to go because there is only so much room. And I probably could have used the $$ . But when push came to shove, I couldn't do it. I just like the sound too much. I don't use this gong for sound therapy, but I have used it in combo with other German gongs for studio immersions. The size is right (at 36" and not too heavy) and it has kind of a sound all its own. Not sure about the lineage thing, but I feel like it is different and has its place.

And regarding antique vs new bowls, I have a collection of (reportedly) antiques and a few new bowls that I've acquired, and it just seems to me, in my limited experience and questionable sound discernment (tee hee), that beauty is in the ear of the beholder. There are junk antique bowls out there, just as there are really finely handcrafted new ones. And vice versa. Again, I have a "new" bowl that is just one of my favs. I paid a whopping $120 for it, just because I liked the sound and other old ones that I had purchased were still in shipping and I was antsy just to start playing. There is something about the tone of that bowl that I haven't found in most others yet. And honestly, some people who are really talented sound therapists/singing bowl practitioners just cannot afford to drop $700/800/900 and more per bowl. I would also make the argument that the antiques were new once too. Yes, materials may have changed and many are no,longer created using the same hand hammering techniques, but some are. I am hoping that it's more about doing the right things with what you have, assuming they work well together, you like them, and you have the right intentions (which I hope goes without saying that you get to know what you're doing with them before unleashing on others!
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HimalayanBowls

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Reply with quote  #7 
Hi Benjamin, It's a few questions and I'd like to address each one. I think you raise many questions others have:

1. "Is older better? if so why?" This is a subjective question. Some people prefer one or the other. If you are comparing two equally made instruments, older will sound more warm, mellow and less metallic. New will sound more bright, metallic and louder. The reason was explained to me by physicists and metallurgists. New metal is more easily agitated and vibrates very readily. On a molecular level, the structure of an antique is more stable. Scientists refer to this as the relative resting state. New metal is less stable and when you play it, new metal is very responsive. Old metal is closer to a metastable state. The molecules have settled over the years. The vibration of an antique tends to be softer and the metal comes to rest more quickly. That doesn't mean they are more difficult to play - it effects the tonal quality more than anything. New bowls generally are louder, brighter and ring longer. Antiques sound more mellow, warm, less metallic. Most people prefer the antiques. Antiques also have a certain mysterious quality which is more difficult to define - a certain antique presence or "mojo." These guidelines apply to all instruments, not just the singing bowls. Note that craftsmanship has a lot to do with it as well. Age alone does not produce great tone. The instrument must also be well crafted and undamaged. The best antiques are made much more finely than anything made today. Whether it's singing bowls, bells, tingsha, cymbals or other instruments, the most finely made are antiques and they also have the benefit of the aging process. So the best antiques absolutely sound much better than anything made today. However, there are also a lot of poorly made and broken antiques. I often recommend a better quality new instrument over a poor quality antique. I choose less than 5% of the antiques I examine because the quality doesn't meet my standards. Also important to note is that more than half of all antiques are broken and unplayable. 

On to the next question...

2. "Where can people find old pieces these days?" Not to self promote but I am the caretaker of the largest collection of antique singing bowls in the world. My site http://www.himalayanbowls.com is home to the largest and best collection of antique singing bowls, hands down. I hand select every antique I offer. I'm also an expert with the new bowls and can clarify some points about those. I brought over a large 10 year collection of antique singing bowls in 2015. The earthquakes hit Nepal a few months later so this may be the last large collection to leave Nepal. I also have a special collection of cymbals, tingsha, bells and other instruments. Yes the antique market is largely dried up. There are very few antiques left at the source and prices for almost every type of object are astronomical.

3. The Meinl singing bowls are cast, hammered and then finished. They're very similar to other handmade singing bowls. They're more gong-like for my liking. Meinl sourced them in India and put their name on them. It's the second large company to go to Asia and put their brand on singing bowls - Donna Karen, the famous fashion brand, was the first to brand singing bowls in this way. The Donna Karen singing bowls are identical to the handmade singing bowls innovated by Himalayan Bowls since 2006 - these Here.

4. I think there's definitely a place for "snowflake" items if they're genuinely better but this is a sticky subject because people are greedy. For many years I've fought against my competitors who charge 2, 3, 4 times the price because they decide one instrument is qualitatively better than another. I personally can't justify charging double or triple the price for something that is essentially the same, but made slightly better. Instead I strive to make all of my products great. Right now I'm looking at the same new, handmade engraved singing bowl I sell for $100. Someone else is selling the same bowl - exactly the same - for $400. They use a lot of language - it's a master crafted, spiritually decorated, high quality alloy, etc. Does this flowery language really justify a huge price tag? Guaranteed their bowl doesn't sound 4 times better than mine, or any better than mine. If the business owner understood economics and cared to help the craftspeople in Nepal, they would charge the lowest possible price so they could buy more. They're not snowflakes - we can make more! That being said, there are some real treasures. I'll be happy to sell you a $3,000 snowflake antique which will blow your mind. Like always, it comes down to who you're buying from and what the object is genuinely worth. 

5. The best way to promote good quality instruments is to play them. It's largely a matter of perspective. The first singing bowl people hear, they think it sounds wonderful. Someone with more experience may think it's a poor quality bowl. It doesn't matter - they're all wonderful in their way and until someone hears a really great bowl, an average one will do nicely. They don't have anything to compare it to. Once people do hear a better quality one, it's difficult to accept anything else.

6. I strongly discourage anyone from buying direct from Asia from any website, whether one of the big shopping sites or an independent website. I work very hard to hand choose products and I don't do it for fun - I do it out of necessity. I go around the world (it's a 30 hour trip at least), travel on terrible dirt roads with a mask on, risk traveler's illness every day, navigate all kinds of cultural and logistical barriers just to get to the good singing bowls. I do it because only 3-4% of what I find is worth buying. The rest are broken, fake or just sound poor. Guess what? My suppliers are not looking for individual customers in the USA. The good suppliers are actually very hard to get to. The people selling online are not reputable. Only buy from a reputable dealer at home.

7. I do business in Nepal only and I can tell you it is illegal to export objects of cultural or religious significance. However, other antiques can be exported legally. The objects that are generally banned from export are paintings and sculptures, which have been widely looted since the 1950's. Singing bowls are not considered culturally significant in the eyes of the government and so their export is allowed.
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HimalayanBowls

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Reply with quote  #8 
Just thought I'd add a note of warning here because I spent a few minutes on eBay today and saw some incredibly dishonest listings - like a brand new "15th century Tibetan antique from Lhasa." I sure hope no one you know bought that for $675. It's a brand new $100 bowl. While that's extreme, I do see other new bowls and other objects selling as "old" or "antique." Plus a lot of machine made bowls sold as handmade. Now there's a new class of machine made bowl with machine hammerinfo which people sell as hand hammered. It's simple - these cheap fakes are a fraction of the price of the real singing bowls. They can buy them for very little and then sell them for higher prices. It's a straight rip off and has been happening for years.
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