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- All About Antiques
- Vintage hinges
- Hardware and hinges help date antiques
- By Peter Green
- There are four criteria for
evaluating the authenticity of an antique. The first consideration
should be design and style.
- Does a piece have the style
characteristics of the 17th, 18th or 19th centuries? Add to that
whether the style period had a later revival that could be confused
with the original period.
- If the piece is a later reproduction,
does any part of it appear to be uncharacteristic? Craftsmen
will often include almost unconsciously, stylistic elements of
the period they are working in when copying a piece.
- The second criteria in evaluating
a piece is construction. Methods of construction are associated
with specific historical periods. All of these methods can be
found in modern hand-made furniture, but almost never in mass
produced furniture - not even in expensive furniture. It is possible
for a person to copy a historic style using all the correct methods
of construction. However, it is unlikely that he will not incorporate
some modern labour saving devices.
- The third criteria to be applied
is that of age, wear and type of hardware properly associated
with the period of construction. This type of hardware includes
the nails, brasses, pulls and hinges employed in a piece of furniture.
When you incorporate in your examination the telltale signs of
age, wear and type of hardware added to the style and construction,
you have the basic method of antique authentication.
- This is the basic method, but
no method is foolproof. Museums have been fooled and experts
have been fooled but there are few expert fakers of this quality.
The cost of their forgery limits it to a very small part of the
antique market. The constant and practiced use of authentication
will result in the detection of most forgeries.
- The fourth and last criteria
is a sixth sense which comes from years of experience in dealing
with antiques. This intuition, or whatever you choose to call
it, is a sense that tells you when a piece meets the style, construction
and wear tests, but still leaves you with the uneasy feeling
that something is wrong, if this is the case, then perhaps it
is best to decide against it.
- The application of all or any
of these criteria must be directed by logic and common sense.
- Common sense is the best tool
in the arsenal of the antique collector. This is especially true
with regard to questions of age and wear. If there is an upholstered
armchair in the living room, the most likely part to wear out
first is the forward part of the arm where people rest their
hand and then proceed to rub and fidget within that area as they
sit there, usually unconscious of what they are doing.
- If the chair is wooden, has
arms and is over 100 years old, the arms will be worn satin smooth
by friction and hand oils. If they are wooden kitchen chairs
with leg stretchers, the front stretcher will be worn in the
center from feet resting on it. If you take the drawers out of
an old chest of drawers and examine the bottom of the drawers,
you will see wear grooves from constant use.
- Of course, many people rely
on the reputation and expertise of a reputable antique dealer
when making a purchase. This is not a bad idea if you are not
that experienced and unsure of your ability, particularly when
it comes to a major investment - even if it appears to be just
a five cent cigar sign.
- Peter Green, founder of Asheford
Institute of Antiques, an antique and appraisal home-study-school,
and owner of South Meadow Farm Antiques in Muskoka, ON, is a
syndicated antique columnist.
- Other columns: Issue
80 - Issue 79 - Issue 78 - Issue
76 - Issue 75