Antique furniture is one of the most popular and interesting sections of antique collecting. More antique furniture is purchased for its function and beauty by everyday people as opposed to the potential profit of a piece.
But, whether you’re looking for a piece for your home or something to sell, you need to be sure you only purchase genuine antique furniture.
Identifying Antique Furniture
When trying to identify antique pieces, most buyers look for beautifully preserved pieces of furniture. There are a number of ways you can identify whether or not a piece is a genuine antique.
It wasn’t until around 1860 that machine-cut furniture began being produced. If an item has drawers, take one out and take a careful look where the back and front of the drawer are fastened to the sides. If the joint was hand-dovetailed, it will have a few dovetails that aren’t exactly even. If the dovetails are precisely cut and closely spaced, it was probably machine-cut.
It’s really easy to spot an antique by its drawers since joints weren’t machine-cut until the later 1800s. If the drawers only have a few dovetail joints and the pins are narrower than the dovetails, you can be sure the joints were made by hand.
You can find an extensive collection of antique furniture in Melbourne at Wallrocks.
Exact symmetry is another sure-fire sign that a piece of furniture was made by a machine. On handmade antique furniture, rockers, rungs, slats, spindles and other smaller components aren’t usually uniform. Examine the parts carefully. Any slight differences in shape or size aren’t that easy to spot. A genuine antique won’t be perfectly cut whereas a reproduction will be since a machine will have cut the parts.
- The Wood Finish
The wood finish can help to date the piece of furniture. Up until Victorian times, shellac was the only finish used on wood, with varnish and lacquer coming later in the mid-1800s. The finish on furniture produced before 1860 will usually be shellac. If the item is very old, it may be milk paint, wax or oil. Finer old works are typically French-polished which is a variation of shellac.
- Type of Wood
The type of wood used for the piece of furniture is a big clue as to whether it is a genuine antique or a replica. Very early pieces, from around the Middle Ages up until the start of the eighteenth century, is usually oak. But, from the end of the seventeenth century, other woods such as mahogany and walnut grew in popularity.
In the 1670s, cabinetmakers began to recognise that walnut offered better properties, like dense grain which allowed for finer, lighter shapes of furniture. It quickly became the “in” material of the period. In the earlier part of the eighteenth century, though, the walnut woods in central Europe were almost obliterated by a significantly icy winter and the numbers were greatly reduced.
In the 1730s, meanwhile, mahogany became the wood of choice and once it was introduced in England, it was imported from the British colonies to the corners of the globe. The walnuts quickly became superseded by mahogany which remained a favourite choice for the next century.
Use these tips to ensure you’re buying genuine antique furniture.
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