This is a collaborative blog post.
Learning how to spot a reproduction from a real antique like the experts do isn’t a simple feat, but not an impossible one too. By educating yourself and with a lot of practice, distinguishing genuine antiques and collectibles will come as easy as the alphabet to you. There are hallmarks for authentic items that you can look for and also tell-tale signs that give away reproductions.
Below are a few ways to help you determine whether an antique is real or a reproduction:
- Check for signs of age.
Since you’re looking at old pieces, it is logical to expect to find signs of aging. Pieces that have been produced more recently will have smoother, shinier surfaces. When the item appears to have consistent signs of wear, this is likely to be a reproduction as authentic antiques will have varying degrees of wear because of its years of use. Cabinets and shelves, for example, should have some indication that it has been opened countless times over the years.
Other cues of age are black marks due to water exposure, some nicks on corners, and maybe even a few worm holes. Make sure to examine the items closely to check whether these are legitimate signs of age and not done artificially like holes done with drills.
Patina is also a good sign of age. This refers to layers of polish, wax, dust, etc., that are found on the surfaces of various metals (copper, brass, bronze), certain stones, and wooden furniture acquired through exposure and age. Despite being difficult to accomplish, some furniture manufacturers attempt to replicate patina by heavy staining. Be prudent enough to look at the concealed parts of the item to check for patina. For example, if you see the latest antiques and collectables from LoveAntiques, you’ll find an original 18th century mahogany armchair comes with a good colour and patina.
- Examine the materials used.
With the advancements in technology, the ability to reproduce items has also progressed, which in turn makes identifying the authentic antiques more difficult. Still, by looking at the type of materials used, you may be able to tell the real ones from the reproductions. For example, if you are interested in a bronze statue, you may want to further examine the metals used to be certain about its authenticity. Spelter, also referred to as “the poor man’s bronze,” may be used in lieu of bronze. Although it may appear bronze-like, spelter does not age well and is considered far less valuable than the precious metal.
For wooden furniture, you can check out the nails. Typical antique furniture would have worm holes and square nails together. Reproductions or newer pieces can be a combination of either: 1) old nails and new wood or 2) new nails with old wood, which means you need to be more meticulous in order to avoid investing on an imitation.
- Other important considerations.
Reproductions can also be made to look old even if it was only produced recently. Old materials can also be utilized to replicate an antique, which means you should not solely rely on these two indicators to determine a genuine piece from a fake.
Signatures of authenticity will be helpful indicators, as well as the number of items available. Reproductions can be mass produced, but real antiques are limited. For example, research about the characteristics that should be found in authentic Victorian jewellery, from its embellishments to its texture, the materials used, the styles, and other hallmark elements of the time period, among others.
Above all, buy only from reputable dealers of antiques and collectables.