By: Marie-Hélène van Houten, Founder of The Past Perfect Collection
Real or replica? That’s something that’s foremost in our minds when my husband Pieter and I go on our shopping trips to India to source antique furniture for our showroom in Singapore, The Past Perfect Collection. So we thought we’d share with you our top tips for recognising a true antique – tick off each of the below and you’re onto a gem!
1. The proof is in the patina! The unique ‘glow’ wood develops over time is one of the most important elements in recognising antique furniture as it is next to impossible to replicate. You’ll find the colour differs across the piece, with grooves and carvings darker, and exposed surfaces lighter.
2. Wear and tear is a good sign. After centuries of standing on damp floors and being moved around, you’d expect the feet, at the very least, to look worn.
3. Look for dovetail joints (notches cut in wood so pieces fit together like puzzle pieces) and wooden dowel pins. If they are too sleek, clean or uniform, they have most likely been cut by modern tools instead of by hand (as would be the case for an original piece).
4. Spot the secondary wood. In the past, less expensive wood was often used in places where it wouldn’t show – like the interior of a cupboard. No secondary wood might be an indication of a new construction.
5. Examine the boards. If the piece is a true antique, the chances are that it is made from one solid plank of wood or different planks of various widths. Lumber was abundant in the old days and so large boards were commonly used, with many tables and chests made from a single plank and the remaining parts cut into awkward shapes to minimise wasted wood. Perfectly-sized boards indicate a new build.
6. Note the handles and nuts. Antique handles were cast by hand from a single piece of metal, usually brass. Though, while handles are useful in dating a piece, it is common to find pieces with replaced handles, so checking the nuts that attach the handles can be another clue. Nuts made in the 18th century are irregular and circular, while newer nuts are hexagonal and machine-cut.
7. Inspect the locks and nails. Antique locks are made of wrought iron that were held in place by iron nails, while locks made after the 18th century are of steel and brass. Steel screws also replaced iron nails.
8. Check the carving. An original and complete carving adds to the price and desirability of antique furniture. And, if a piece has inlay work, its value will only grow as it ages.
The Past Perfect Collection is on Pinterest and Facebook so be sure to bookmark them. Or, simply head to their showroom: 315 Outram Road #11-05 Tan Boon Liat Building Singapore 169074. Tel: 6737 3078; www.pastperfect.sg.
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