Recognising replicas or reproduction pieces can be one of the most difficult tasks when dealing with antiques. Fakes or copies have long been in circulation, and some have been so well forged that it can be almost impossible for even a trained eye to determine the authenticity of a piece.A considerable amount of skill and knowledge is required to spot a fake, and with the fraudulent items being so well crafted, it is not surprising so many individuals are convinced by, and invest in, these pieces.However, there are a few guidelines to consider during your search for genuine antique furniture. These simple steps will encourage you to study various aspects of the piece, including the source of the item, the appearance, materials used and the provenance, among other factors.
Trustworthy antiques dealersWhen trying to determine whether the antique you are interested in is genuine or a replica, it is important to consider the environment and individual you are purchasing it from.Credited and experienced antique dealers possess a comprehensive knowledge of their subject, they would have well-researched and carefully purchased the item before considering selling it in their shop. This attention to detail provides a protection of their name within the industry, as well as for their business, which is ultimately their livelihood.
Genuine questionChoosing to purchase an item from an experienced and trusted antique dealer, should give you some certainty as to whether the item is genuine. It is highly likely the dealer will be confident in the information they are providing you with, so asking questions such as ‘do you think this piece is genuine?’ is encouraged.
The appearance of the pieceThe look and form of an antique can present several indications, all of which should be considered before you decide whether or not to purchase the item. Genuine antiques are likely to have some representation of the longevity, and this representation comes in many forms.Most antiques would have been handcrafted; this results in imperfections in symmetry and uneven surfaces. These demonstrate that the item has been made by a human, rather than a machine.
Wear and TearA genuine antique will have indications of wear; this may be a worn arm on a chair or a scratch or two on the surface of a table. This type of ‘damage’ contributes to the patina of the item, and amongst other factors, can help you determine whether the item is a replica or not.
Types of WoodMost genuine antiques would have been made from more than one type of wood. This is because, at the time of creation, materials and woods, in particular, were rare and expensive. Craftsmen would reserve the most luxurious and pricey woods for the parts of the furniture that would regularly be seen, so for the underside or backs of pieces, a cheaper alternative was usually used. Often, but not always, replicas will be built from just one wood type.
Construction of furniture
- Machine made screws, round wired nails and staples are all sure sights of a modern repair or a replica. Screws were handmade well into the 19th century, and nails were always square cut, rather than round.
- The veneering of a piece is also a good indication of the pieces authenticity. The older the antique, the thicker the veneer. This is because veneers were hand-cut until the mid 19th century and they were usually attached using a form of animal glue. Veneers gradually became thinner as new technology and machinery became available.
- The joints used on an authentic antiques will have been meticulously constructed and reinforced using glue. The joints to look out for are dowels, mortise and tenons, as these will frequently feature on a genuine item.