Dating antique furniture

Note whether the drawer has dovetails, and whether they are machine-cut dovetails or hand-cut. This is usually a sign that the piece is indeed antique—and high-quality at that, since rear dovetails are very uncommon even in antiques.

Drawers (and backs) are also usually one of the cheapest components in furniture. Most modern pieces—even high-quality reproductions that look very genuine on the outside—use plywood in drawer construction.

This is a common enough question, but basically there is a standard set of elements to consider when determining whether or not your furniture is antique.

Many people make the mistake of looking at one or two details while neglecting the rest, but judging antique furniture is a lot like judging a painting: look at the details, but also take in an overall perspective.

Becoming knowledgeable about antique furniture takes research, even if you are focusing on only one aspect of this wide-ranging subject.

Establish value: Many collectors prefer particular eras, styles, and makers, while others have more eclectic tastes.

The logic behind this move is simple: why waste expensive, solid wood (which has to be carefully treated and cured) on the inside of a drawer?

Plywood, however, is another 20th-century invention, so if you’re looking at composite wood and your antique is supposed to be Victorian, then that plywood was either added in a restoration or you’ve got a reproduction on your hands.

Other interior or home decorators tend not to take things so seriously but are still interested in items, history and authenticity.This isn’t to say that antique finishes can’t be shiny and reflective, but they’re not going to be high gloss, either.Shellack finishes were very often quite thick (up to a quarter inch!Also, if you can find screws (usually visible on the back, if at all), are they Phillips or flat head?Phillips screws are a 20th-century invention, so if your piece is supposed to be from the 18th century but has Phillips screws, they have either been added in a recent restoration or it’s a fake. If your piece has drawers, take a drawer out and look at how the handles are attached on the inside of the drawer.

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