Ruby Lane (.com) – The Virtual Antique Market

May 12, 2010

This will sound like sacrilege to a collector, but quite often, I just don’t care for auctions.

Oh come on, surely you get a little tired of either putting your hand up at an auction and having someone shoot you and angry glance, then joust their hand high in the air as if they were saluting an invisible dictator. Surely you get a little tired of the auctioneer’s constant baiting and ribbing. You may even get a little sick of the auction house premiums…

Or perhaps you’re more the stay at home type and you get sick of seeing that amazing bracelet going for $9.95 (with 6 days to go) and you think it’s the bargain of the century. After a few days, it’s gone up to a respectable price (maybe $100), then all of a sudden in the last 30 seconds, someone has swooped in an put an extra $300 on it and blown you out the water. The entire week of dreaming about it, the ‘will I, won’t I?’ stress and all the energy you invested in that piece has ensured that a rabid collector (me) or a dealer has bought it and you may even find it in your local antique shop with an extra zero on the price tag.

Which brings me to Ruby Lane and why I think it’s the perfect virtual store front for antique dealers.

Firstly, the dealers often have their own physical store, which essentially holds the seller accountable for their wares. Some of my favourite antique dealers are on there and they’re quite knowledgeable and approachable. Whereas a lot of eBay sellers are anonymous and may just be selling something without any real knowledge about the piece (leading to a greater influx of mislabelled and faux pieces), many of the sellers on Ruby Lane can be a good educational resource. Do note that as in the real world, many sellers are more knowledgeable than others, so don’t believe anything at face-value, remember to use your own judgement, because no one is a singular fountain of knowledge.

One of the downsides to Ruby Lane is the lack of a proper payment gateway, if there was a centralised Paypal, that would be handy, but most of the dealers have their own Paypal accounts, so it’s not all bad.

Another flaw is the image viewing system, which I feel could benefit from launching another window with a larger gallery (or better lightboxing), rather than the icky ‘click to zoom’ feature. If you’re buying online, you need to feel intimate with the piece as it’s the closest you’re going to get to touching it. Bad pictures can mask imperfections and if you’re going to drop several thousand dollars on a ring, you’d better be sure it’s correct.

Finally, the search functionality needs a little more work on getting better refining to the results. If there was a way to search more specifically within year brackets and price ranges (much like Domain.com.au or Carpoint.com.au), you could get better examples.

All in all, Ruby Lane deserves its respect and I thank it for bringing a global antique centre into my house. It’s a wonderful market place and I often spend much time there drooling on my keyboard.

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