Collectors Guide to Antique Furniture
Any piece of furniture can be made in an earlier design, but it is only valuable if done in the correct period the style originated. There are certain hidden clues in antique furniture, besides style, that tell you if the piece is authentic.
Antique furniture can be divided into the following categories: Second Hand, Utilitarian, Decorative, and Museum. The prudent collector knows which their pieces fall into and thus the proper market for each. Over-paying, or selling for less than an item is worth, is always misunderstanding the market. A proper formal appraisal and market report, from a certified appraiser, alleviates this problem.
- Second Hand - furniture from the 1920's through the 1950's that have some age and costly when new. Many old collectors mistake these as "antiques". An antique is something at least 100 years old.
- Utilitarian - old furniture of little interest to museums but ideal to decorate with and use every day (dry sinks, joint stools, roll top desks etc. the list go's on)
- Decorative - items of better quality then produced today and future collectable (Baker furniture, Louis XIV Revival etc.)
- Museum - furniture too fragile to use, but placed in a collection to add ambiance or fill a gap in a complete collection (French, Louis XIV, Tudor, Medieval etc.)
Determining Age in Antique Furniture
Woodworking Method in Antique Furniture
- Riven - split (not sawn) along the grain. Usually found in 15th to 17th century.
- Hand Sawn Timber - course and irregular teeth marks in the wood. Late 16th to 17th century.
- Frame Sawn Timber - evenly spaced regular course cut at an angle to the wood grain. 17th to 18th century.
- Circular Sawn Timber - concentric arc cuts. 19th to 20th century.
Pegs and Screws in Antique Furniture
Authentic wood pegs are never round. They should slightly stand up from the wood holding them. 15th to 17th century. Screws are easily identified by their distinctive designs over the centuries. Be careful removing them not to damage the heads. If they resist, touch a hot soldering iron to the head. First try counter clockwise, then clockwise to budge them.
For valuable antique wood furniture there is also dendrochronology. This is where the tree rings of the wood are compared to known biological charts of both wet and dry seasons. Thick rings were a rainy period; thin rings were a drought. An expert can tell what year the tree was cut.
Just because a piece of antique furniture is old and done in a popular style doesn't make it valuable. It must have a rich patina finish and pleasing proportions. It takes an expert furniture appraiser to identify these.
Be an Antique Furniture Detective
Properly identifying the age and country of origin of furniture is in reading the clues. They are easy to find and right in front of you. The only thing you can't be certain of is, is it a copy, forgery, or replica. Has it been altered or is it in original condition?
Collectors Guide to Antique Furniture Styles
Properly identified furniture is easy to buy and sell because you then know where is the market. The more popular the style, the more the copies, revival items and forgeries. Always obtain a certificate of authenticity for all your major antique furniture. This is included in all our antique furniture appraisals.
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