There are many questions about antiques. What exactly do you have? Do you have something of value? Is your piece a reproduction? With a little effort, you can learn to identify your antiques and research their values. This knowledge will also help you know what to look for to avoid being caught by fakes.
Looking for marks and signatures
The first step in identifying and valuing antiques and collectibles is often to determine the maker of the item by looking for a mark or signature.
It is very common to find marks on costume jewellery, for example, they are simply very small and often hidden in an obscure place. Glass marks are not as common as on other items, such as pottery and porcelain, but they do occur from time to time.
Pottery and porcelain marks are often very visible, you only need to look at the bottom or back of a piece to locate them. Most of the best pottery houses have very well known and easy to identify marks. The marks have sometimes changed over the years they have been in business, so these identifiers can also tell you more about the age of the piece.
Similarly, silver and silver marks are often a series of small symbols placed inside squares. If you can read them, they can tell you the manufacturer, the country of origin and, in some cases, even the date they were made.
Furniture can also be labelled, so be sure to check inside drawers and on the back and bottom of pieces for the name of a manufacturer or craftsman.
Decoding antique furniture
Furniture is a separate category in the world of antiques. There are different styles, famous makers and a number of confusing terms you need to know. For example, did you know that a sideboard and a buffet are basically the same thing?
When identifying antique furniture, one of the first things to consider is the style or period. Chippendale is a style of furniture that was made in the mid to late 1700s, while Queen Anne furniture dates back to the turn of the century. The two styles look similar, but to the trained eye there are distinct differences. Similarly, Eastlake is the name of a late Victorian (late 1800s) style that is distinctly different from its contemporaries.
Among modern furniture designers, a name like Eames will come up often and these pieces are very collectible. Not only does Eames furniture have a unique and clean style that is easily recognisable, but you will also find labels underneath the pieces. There are many other mid-century furniture designers who have also created collectible pieces today.
Looking at particular styles of furniture and components can also be very helpful in determining what you have and how old it is.
Don’t be fooled by reproductions
Getting stung by a reproduction is a way to “pay for your education”. Learning to distinguish reproductions from genuine antiques may not be the easiest thing you can do, but it is worth it and certainly much easier on the wallet.
Testing the authenticity of your antiques
There are a number of ways to test the authenticity of antiques and collectibles, some of which use very clever methods. For example, a black light can be very handy for testing everything from china to artwork. Also, if you’re collecting bakelite, you’ll definitely want to know how to identify it using various methods.
Get a good antique guide
Knowledge is power in the antiques market and anything you can do to research your antiques or those you are considering buying will help. You can turn to internet research for quick tips, but having a good library on the subjects you specialize in can also be very helpful.
A trusted antique guide to general antiques is often a good starting point for research. These books can provide a good foundation for expanding your learning about your favourite types of antiques.