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Posted By Inktiques / Michelle Greysen

The old adage of experience comes with age is especially true in the area of antique appraisal. The older the antique the more experience one will need in determining true age. The greater you knowledge and background of your area of collecting the quicker it will become to pinpoint the era. The clues to the dating of antique furniture are in the items themselves and on close scrutiny there are many factors to consider.
The authenticity of the antique is first to determined as many of the checklist items to follow will rely on the fact that the item is indeed genuine. Normal signs of aging, patinas, natural discolouration of metals over time along with authentic markings in the correct place are some of the obvious things to check for. Authentic well aged items should have also have natural wear and tear from a century of use in places such as the handles and knobs,  feet and backs and on the arms of chairs. If anything looks suspect then chances are high, in this age of fakery, that the item is a remake and further scrutiny is necessary.
Upon determining the item is a genuine antique the first obvious clue to age is the style which will indicate a certain time period.  The Medieval Tudor Style dates to 1066-1550, Elizabethan Jacobean 1550-1660, Queen Anne 1660-1720, Georgian 1720-1800, Regency 1800-1830, Victoria 1830-1870, and Edwardian 1870-1914 along with the Arts & Craft movement. The period of 1914-1940 is known as Between the Wars Years bringing in the Art Deco styles. With 1940-1970 bringing the Post War Years and Mid-Century Modern.
Along with the authenticity and style will come any marking of maker or location often bringing great clues as to the origin of the item, along with further research into know makers and manufacturers. These marking can also be easily replicated to the untrained eye and should be only one part of determining the age.
Materials used in construction of the item will also play a role in the true age. Check for nails and fasteners as old nails were handmade with square hand beaten heads. Hand forged nails date back to the 1700’s with cut nails produced by the late 1790’s for the next hundred years when machined wire nails and screws came into play. Any stapling in furniture indicates the last century.
Construction methods offer big clue to age such as hand cut dovetail joins along with tell-tale signs of old tools and plains being used which left scar marks unlike the modern radial precision tools. Prior to the 1830’s wood was hand cut often leaving marks on the backsides of furniture. Sawmills cutting up to the mid 1800’s left straighter markings and circular cutting and hand sanding taking over by the last half of that century. One large dovetail join in a drawer could be 1700’s as by the 1800’s cabinet makers were utilizing several joins and machine cuts.
Natural darkening of the woods around the nails should be present over time as the iron corroded as should the old animal based glues look crystallized. Wood pegs should slightly jut out as the wood shrinks across the grain and over time and will naturally misshape authentic items.
Threads and materials utilized and stitching methods in any textiles on the furniture are also indicators of age. The skill levels of handwork and ornamentation are the obvious indicators as high quality craftsmanship is indicative to antiques and anything hinting at mass assembly is a tell tale sign of a more modern item.
Authenticity, style and era, signs of aging, materials and craftsmanship, makers and marks and collector knowledge will all come into play in determining the age of an antique.




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