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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - RIYADH: Maha Alsharif’s Riyadh-based Instagram shop, Crystal Ages, opens a window on the past with vintage Saudi items, antiques from the Victorian Era, and more.
During her trips abroad, Alsharif visited flea markets, vintage shops, and auction houses and began collecting her finds.
She said: “In 2014, my mother looked at all my collectibles and jokingly said, ‘you should open a museum and show them to the public.’ We both laughed, but later, I thought, why not an online shop?
“In 2015, I decided to sell the items I collected, and it turned out to be great.”
With no business model, Alsharif took the risk of opening her shop through Instagram.
“It started without a business model, a plan, or even a budget. It came out organically through social media and has remained the same,” she added.
Crystal Ages now has more than 41,000 online followers.
On trading vintage items, Alsharif pointed out that research was vital.
She said: “Research, always, before or after finding the items. Uniqueness, rich history, handmade, are usually part of the process when working to find an item.”
Alsharif studied economics at university, a course that motivated her to open her shop.
“I truly believe in the law of supply and demand. I have a strong sense of what people are looking for. I aim for it and try to find a reaction.
“We are currently living in a factorized world. Millions of copies are spreading around the world, so if I share an item with you and tell you only 100 were made 50 years ago, will you be interested?” she added.
Alsharif noted that she had always had an appreciation for vintage items because of their power to evoke sentiments.
She said: “I’ve always been fond of vintage and antiques since an early age. I like to believe that I work and trade with nostalgia, memories, and even feelings rather than just items.
“When we were younger, there were classic movies with typewriters, and a writer. From a young age, I have always been so curious to try a typewriter. Although they are available today, they don’t resemble what I saw in the films.”
The first item Alsharif sold was a typewriter from the 1930s. But when speaking to older members of her community, she received perplexed reactions.
Alsharif said people born in the 1950s to 1970s era generally questioned the idea of her reselling old items and instead encouraged her to enjoy the luxuries of the digital age.
Despite receiving mixed reviews from the Saudi community, Alsharif hopes to preserve items that hold historical or sentimental value.
She said: “Some pieces may remind individuals of a difficult time of their lives, like a tough childhood. But to me, it’s amazing. It’s considered a national legacy.”
For her, physical books and vinyl records provide a more enjoyable experience.
“For humans to truly enjoy an item, we need to go through the process. Listening to music is now all digital; it’s all in the palm of your hand. Even reading a book is now on apps on an iPad, instead of reading a book,” she added.
The most expensive item Alsharif has sold was a rare Patek Philippe pocket watch King Saud special edition 1956 for approximately SR250,000 ($66,700).
Her shop has sold a variety of items including Saudi jewerly and books, products from Japan and Scandinavia, and finds from the Victorian and French Art Nouveau eras.
For more information on Crystal Ages visit Instagram at @crystalages.
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