The old saying goes, “everything that glitters is not gold.” In the world of antique shopping, it’s important to realize that everything that is old is not an antique. Here are some tips for finding quality antique furniture on your next antiquing trip!
Check the hardware
One of the most surefire ways to check the authenticity of an antique piece is by closely examining the hardware. Modern furniture doesn’t have the hardware connected to the furniture by the same methods that antique furniture does. For example, the handles on an antique chest will have the handles attached by a threaded post with a nut that secures the handle to the drawer front on the inside of the drawer. Modern furniture generally just runs a flat head screw towards the face of the drawer to attach the handle. Also look for genuine signs of use and wear around the knobs and handles.
Look at the assembly
While you’re checking out the hardware that is attached to the furniture, also take special note of how the piece is constructed. Just like the methods for attaching hardware has changed over the years, so have assembly methods. Let’s take the hypothetical chest that we were discussing a moment ago into consideration again. Hundreds of years ago, around the Queen Anne period of furniture, there wasn’t as much attention to details in assemblage. Such details could be found in the way that the drawers in the antique chest are built, in that the dovetails (the parts where the different parts of the drawer meet), will be considerably larger and more noticeable in genuine antiques. In contrast, newer innovations in craftsmanship have allowed people to make the dovetails much smaller.
Look for stamps or signatures
As obvious as it sounds, many people fail to thoroughly check for indicators that would tell the location of construction, and maybe even the year on a piece of furniture. Starting in the late 19th century, a lot of factory made furniture was stamped, so it’s very possible to find a handwritten stamp, label, or some other sort of indication on an older piece. Take the drawers out and check the back, sides, and bottom of the piece for possible clues.
Ultimately the goal is to buy a piece of furniture that you love, no matter the age. But if you’re looking for a genuine antique, these are some helpful hints to make sure you get what you’re looking for!