Dating antiques

Clue 1: Fittings and Findings for Earrings

The longer a piece of furniture remains in their inventory, the less profit they make on it. Of course, how high up the retailers ladder the same venue is, the bettter chance you have of buying an authentic piece. Generally, dealers selling at antique shows do the most research. This is especially true of the ones selling pieces of furniture for five and six figures. They also make sure each piece has a provenance. Flea market dealers do little or no research.

So how can you tell if a piece is authentic? Believe it or not, you need to sharpen your powers of observation. Take a lesson from Sherlock Holmes. There are several ways you can spot an antique. The first giveaway is the joinery—machine-cut only dates back to If the piece has drawers, remove a drawer and look closely where the front and back of the drawer connects to the sides of the drawer. Not all pieces made before had dovetail joints on drawers.

Those that did had only a few, and these weren't even.

How to Identify Antique Wooden Furniture: Tips | HowStuffWorks

Machine-cut dovetails are precise. Be sure to look carefully at the bottom, sides, and back of the drawer. Cabinetmakers made these from solid wood, often of the same type as the exterior of the piece. If the wood shows nicks or cuts, they probably cut these pieces with a plane, a spokeshave, or a drawknife. Straight saw marks also indicate an old piece.

This is also the difference between an authentic piece of furniture and a reproduction.


  • Dating Antiques Part II – Drawers.
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The former is hand cut while the latter is machine cut. Furniture finishes can help you date a piece. Before the mids, shellac was the only clear surface finish. Older pieces may have oil, wax, or milk paint finishes. Fine old pieces are often French-polished, a variation of the shellac finish. And even though varnish may indicate a piece dates before , a lot of American Empire pieces, dating from the s to s, have been refinished with varnish.

Dating Antiques

How furniture makers joined other parts of a piece of furniture together is another way to tell age. Generally, cabinetmakers used pegs to join parts together. Those made before had flat, un-tapered heads.


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  • Dating Antiques Part III – Hardware?
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  • What is a dovetail joint?.

Antique, handmade screws had irregular widths between the spirals, running the whole length of the shaft. The slot in the head was often off-center. New screws, on the other hand, have sharp points and regular, evenly spaced threads. It may just be a cover glued into the hole to cover up a counter-sinked screw.

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The wood itself is the final clue. Furniture made before is usually oak, but after , cabinetmakers commonly used mahogany and walnut. Generally, cabinetmakers chose harder woods—maple, oak, walnut, cherry, or mahogany. But these woods have always been favored for furniture, so workmanship and finish are probably a better sign of age than the wood itself. Wood shrinks, so an older piece of furniture will most likely have uneven measurements. Run your hand over and shine a flashlight across the surface of the wood to detect hairline cracks and ripples that come with aging.

Dating Furniture Using Dovetail Joints

Look underneath for the inevitable warping and buckling of wood. The use of scalloped dovetails can be dated to the s and were only used for a short time. Machine cut dovetails were common use at the end of the s in factory-made pieces. Before the use of dovetails, drawer sides were normally nailed into rebate joints cut in the of drawer front. Two to six hand forged wrought iron nails prevented the drawer front from being torn apart when the handles were pulled.

5 Clues to Help Identify the Date of Jewelry

In damp conditions, tannic acid in the oak timber would accelerate corrosion of the nails and drawer fronts were often ripped apart. Another tip to dating early furniture is to look out for marks made by woodworker using small delicate saws and wood chisels. Markings around the dovetails are often visible on the inside or underside of a piece. See Our Antique Furniture. Contact Moonee Ponds Antiques. What is a dovetail joint? Dating Furniture Early hand cut dovetails from the 17th century were wide, stubby and crude looking. Pin It on Pinterest.

Clues to Dating Antiques #2