How to Research and Identify Antiques
Commonly Used Methods
There are many different ways of identifying antiques. Many people rely on examining the item’s style. Certain types of styles were popular during certain periods. For example, Queen Anne is a commonly seen furniture type. The Queen Anne style takes inspiration from the kind of style that was popular when Queen Anne was ruler of the United Kingdom. Hallmarks of this kind of style include specifics such as curved lines, cushioned seats, pad feet and many types of scroll detail. The style is also characterized by the use of certain kinds of wood. Walnut was particularly prized.
A piece with such details is one that may be of the period. It can also be a later reproduction. Antique lovers know that originals from that time have value. They also know that items that were equally well crafted in that kind of style also have value. A buyer in search of a specific kind of piece such as a Queen Anne dressing table or veneer side chair can learn to see how the details all come together to create an organic whole that instantly appeals to their taste.
Items from more recent time frames can also be antiques. For example, furniture pieces designed by Ray Eames date back several decades. These pieces were — and still are — prized by those who appreciate the thoughtful and innovative style that changed the way Americans thought about how they live at home. People who love to antique can quickly learn what distinguishes one piece from a piece that might not quite live up to the promise and elegance of the original style.
Another method of researching and identifying antique is via being able to understand the meaning and significance of maker’s marks and signatures. These are marks that makers put on their piece in order to indicate they were the real deal. Many kinds of items have marks. An item like jewelry that is made from silver or gold may be stamped 92.5 indicating that it is largely made from such metals and therefore has intrinsic value. The buyer can look closely at places where it is likely to be seen such as the underside of one leg or at the base of the vase.
Many types of items can have identifying marks on them. This includes glasses, silverware, wood furniture, and other decorative objects. Even costume jewelry may have a small mark along one side that indicates who made it. Antique hunters should become adept at looking at where a mark is likely to be found and having a general idea what it means. Many common marks come from well-known makers as well as slightly lesser-known houses. A potential buyer might look at a piece and find it instantly appealing. Being able to confirm the item’s appeal with the ability to spot and identify a maker’s mark serves to further bolster the antique hunter’s thrill.
Those in search of the exact right piece for their home should make full use of all available resources at their disposal. Books offer an indication of what to look for when determining the origin and style of a piece. There are also easily available lists of prominent maker’s marks. Few things are more fun than finding a great piece and realizing the history and craft that went into it.