As a child, she had dreamt of becoming a nurse, but destiny had something else in store for Rosemary Whelan. A summer job at an antique shop during her college days in Ireland changed the course of her life. She is now the owner of Richwood Antiques, a European company with more than 20 years of experience in sourcing and restoring 19th-century furniture.
Rosemary, who currently has a showroom in Muscat, is holding an exhibition at The Chedi to showcase several exquisite pieces that have been specifically sourced from Europe for the local market and transported to Oman.
“My exhibition at The Chedi has been going well and has impressed almost everyone, particularly the Omanis,” said Rosemary in an interview with Times of Oman.
Interestingly, Rosemary is the only European antique dealer in Oman, having launched her showroom in Azaiba in 2011 with a prestigious and hugely successful exhibition at the Bait Al Zubair Museum. “When I came here, I was surprised that nobody was selling these things, so I thought I would show these valuable items to people here. And that was how the exhibition in Bait Al Zubair Museum happened. It gave us a lot of exposure, and so many people saw what we were doing. Since then, we have been doing really well,” she stated.
According to Rosemary, Omanis have a “special interest” in polished mahogany wood, which is becoming scarce. “The demand is high amongst Omanis for polished mahogany, but it is becoming a very rare wood, and you cannot make furniture in mahogany anymore. The original pieces that were made in mahogany are unique; hence, we sell a lot of them here,” she continued. Rosemary sells beautiful furniture constructed in exotic timbers of mahogany, rosewood, satinwood, and walnut that have been finely carved and decorated with intricate inlays and fine brass-work—all skilfully executed by craftsmen of the period.
Speaking about her interest in antique trade, Rosemary, who single-handedly manages the business, recalled the good old days. “I am from Dublin in Ireland, and I entered this business at the very young age of 18. I wanted to become a nurse, and during my college days, I was offered a summer job in an antique shop to pass the time. I was fortunate enough to have my first sale in the first week, and I’ve been hooked to this trade ever since,” she remarked. Her first sale was a beautiful Victorian rosewood armchair. “That changed the course of my life. The antique business has only done well for me, and I am enjoying every bit of it. I do not regret not becoming a nurse,” she said with a smile.
With fake antique products making their way into the market, Rosemary, who is also an affiliated member of the CINOA—an international association for art and antique experts—has tips for identifying a genuine antique product. “The first thing I would say is to buy from a reputable source. It takes a long time to become a CINOA member. You need to have a lot of time and experience to become a member. When you are a member of this association, you are guided by a code of practice. If somebody buys an antique piece, and one year later, he finds that the product is not genuine, then he is entitled to a complete refund. I have been in this business for the last 20 years, and there has not been a single complaint from any of my customers,” she stated.
Her exhibition at The Chedi will conclude on Friday, but Rosemary is expected to showcase some of her latest collections soon. “Some precious pieces will be coming to Muscat in eight weeks, and I am hoping to have another exhibition soon. With these products becoming increasingly scarce, I am paying five times more than what I had paid 10 years ago, but the interest remains the same for the customers, and in a way, it’s good to be in this business,” she added. Interested customers can log onto her website http://www.richwoodantiques.com.