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It was at an antiques store in York, England where I first fell in love with the idea of owning a piece of history. It was from that store that my husband bought me my string of ancient Egyptian beads! Given Sri Lanka’s rich history and culture, I was really excited when I heard that there are great opportunities to go antique shopping in Kandy, Sri Lanka’s second largest city. Given that Sri Lanka was such an important destination on historical trade routes, I hoped I would be able to find some unusual and interesting souvenirs.
Now, before I get started, I will address that I know that collecting certain antiques, especially ancient antiquities, can be controversial. I wholeheartedly agree that there are many, many items that have cultural and/or historical significance and should not be taken out of countries and put into private collections. However, none of the antiques I buy (or even intend to buy) have significant cultural and historical value. The ancient Egyptian beads, for example, are some of millions of enamel funerary beads which exist in the world. Same goes for the Roman coins. I also do my research to make sure they were sourced ethically.
After doing my research I came across the name Waruna Antiques mentioned over and over again. We were lucky enough to have a private driver in Sri Lanka, so I asked to stop by the shop at 761 Peradeniya Road. The shop was easy to find, with its bright white and red sign out the front.
Inside, Waruna Antiques is an Aladdin’s Cave of amazing antiques from all over Sri Lanka. There are endless treasures – so many that it is hard to list them in any way that does it justice. There are three levels of the charming if somewhat ramshackle shop, with everything from pocket watches, jewellery, masks, textiles, keys, statues, and everything in between.
We were taken on a wonderful tour, where Waruna answered all of our questions and pointed out items of particular interest. You could tell that he really loves what he does, and he spent time telling us about lots of items that we both knew were well out of our price range!
To my delight, Waruna had a huge selection of coins, dating from about the 12th century through to commemorative coins of Princess Diana and Prince Charles’ wedding (have I mentioned people in Sri Lanka seem to really love Princess Di?) The prices ranged from about $5 to $40, although we probably could have dropped the price if we’d been willing to haggle.
As we wandered around the store, we had a growing collection of things we were interested in – we left them all carefully on the counter and continued our exploration! While we were on the third floor, my heart nearly stopped when Tom managed to brush past a wooden statue which hit the ground with a horrifying thud. As I sat there with my hands over my mouth in total horror, Waruna ran up jovially shouting, ‘don’t worry, don’t worry, I just have too much stuff.’
It was certainly Waruna’s attitude that proved half of the experience at the store. We had wonderful chats about art, the environment, and more. Waruna’s calm and unflappable demeanour is certainly something I’ll try to channel in my life!
Once we had selected a small box of products, Waruna went through and made us a list of the price of each one. He then returned to his office while we decided what treasures we wanted to buy. I really appreciated this as I often find the negotiations very awkward!
In the end we settled on 3 coins, an antique key, and 2 rings for Tom. After such a pleasant stop, we really couldn’t be bothered haggling, and were happy with the price Waruna had suggested. However, with a bit of a twinkle in his eye, he dropped the price by 900 rupees with no request from us.
All in all, I would highly recommend a visit to Waruna Antiques if you wish to do antique shopping in Sri Lanka, especially Kandy. I am sure that anyone from the casual traveller just looking for some cool souvenirs through to an expert antique collector, would appreciate this charming and informative store.