How to Buy Antiques with Confidence. The genuine work of art has been perpetually copied. Over the years, domestic articles have been modified according to fashion trends or for the purpose of modernization. In recent times — that is, since the middle of the 19th century — antiques have been reproduced for a vast range of different reasons in varying degrees of accuracy, from the vague look-alike to the deceptively precise fake. This oft-neglected “why-factor” aspect of art history is very much at the heart of this website; it is understanding the reason, as much as the method, which enables us to answer the question: is it genuine?
Furniture is, without a doubt, the most problematic collectable antiques area. Unlike porcelain or glass, it alters with age. Even untampered with, it will have changed colour as the wood has oxidized or faded, and it will also have changed shape, albeit fractionally, as the timber has shrunk. Sadly, furniture has also been altered for fashion and use as well as pecuniary gain.
While the latter is immoral, it is not in itself illegal. But changing the character, use or appearance of a piece of hallmarked English silver certainly is. Here again, fashion was a force behind the existence of spurious pieces, but so too was a punitive tax system, and so we also gain an insight into economic factors.
The image above show you a fake “Longquan” celadon vase, Song Dynasty The original vases are particularly sought-after by the Japanese, who call them kinuta. This is an extremely convincing copy, probably from Japan and made in the last 50 years.
Other metalwares were widely copied in the late 19th century, and after more than one hundred years’ use, it can be a challenge recognizing the old from the not so old. Perusing manufacturers’ catalogues of the 1890s can give an indication of how huge the brass and pewter reproduction industry was at that time. Porcelain, too, can be a minefield for the novice collector, although here the main danger today is spotting the ingenious repair. Nevertheless, with an absence of marks on some wares and fake marks on others, the study of ceramics can become an all-absorbing passion, reflecting as it does the social history behind it.
Porcelain, too, can be a minefield for the novice collector, although here the main danger today is spotting the ingenious repair. Nevertheless, with an absence of marks on some wares and fake marks on others, the study of ceramics can become an all-absorbing passion, reflecting as it does the social history behind it. There is no category of art or antique that has not at some time been copied, altered, improved, or in one way or another exists as less than genuine. The team of experts who contributed to this book are no strangers to such pieces, and their advice on how to detect them is as easy to follow as only instructions from dedicated tutors can be.
The base of this bureau is mostly 18th-century, but the rather odd proportions of the upper part show that it dates from the 20th century. The piece probably started life as a bureau, without any bookcase, and at the time the top was added the lower half was embellished with floral marquetry.
How old are they? The joint stool is the earliest form of stool commonly seen today. It was first popular in the 17th century (far left), but was reproduced in large numbers in the 1930s (right image). Signs of age you should look for include:
• A mellow sheen with variations in tone where the stool has been exposed to wear.
• Genuine wear on the stretchers. The modern version’s stretchers have been artificially dipped in the centre.
• Irregular-shaped pegs standing proud — but beware of fakes left proud to give an impression of shrinkage.
• Dry appearance underneath.
Their love of their subject shines through. As any one of them will advise you: Go through the website and get more resources or information on prices and value of your piece.
How to Buy Antiques with Confidence
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