How do you tell if a chair is an antique?

How do you tell if a chair is an antique?

Chairs might look old, but how can you tell with certainty if a chair is an antique? Follow these steps to find out.

Examine the legs and feet of the chair for splits and cracks. An antique will not have any major damage on the legs or feet as those areas tend to be well-constructed and sturdy. Modern chairs may have cracked surfaces that give away their relative newness; this will not be the case for antiques.

Examine the condition of the back, armrests, and seat cushions of a chair carefully without taking it apart or moving anything around too much – you may actually ruin something in your quest to find out whether or not a chair is an antique.  

In many cases, the back and armrests of a chair will show more signs of wear than its legs because these areas get the most use out of a chair. If there are nicks or tears in any fabric, for example, likely, a chair is not an antique.

Check for manufacturer stamps on the bottom of a chair – this will help you determine whether or not a piece is new if nothing else matches up. The last thing you want to do is spend precious time figuring out whether or not a chair is old when it’s still new from another perspective!

Ways to tell if a chair is antique or not

The process of identifying antique furniture can be somewhat complicated. There are several tests that a person can perform at home to help determine the age and originality of a piece of furniture. A few examples include:

Look for small nails – 

The older pieces of furniture originally had hand-forged wrought iron nails that were handmade by blacksmiths. 

If you find screws on the item instead, it is most likely a newer reproduction made more recently than 1875. However, some pieces of furniture made after this time could have been originally built with an older style screw, which would help date it to being from the 19th century.

Look for labels –

If a label is still attached, try to find a single letter or a double letter that has been handwritten on the label. If there are several letters and they are printed instead of handwritten, then your piece is more than likely not antique.

Feel for wormholes – 

An easy way to determine if your piece is antique is to look for wormholes in the wood. This will also help you determine age and value at the same time because different types of worms were at work in different eras making holes only in certain pieces of furniture from those times.

Look for watermarks – 

Watermarks on furniture pieces were not introduced until the 1800s, so any piece of wood from this period that has a watermark is more than likely a reproduction.

Inlay check – 

Inlaying pieces of wood into other objects began to appear in Europe during the turn-of-the-century Era and can help you date your piece if it has this feature. However, these types of designs did not make their way to America until later, so an inlaid chair or table would be a good indication that you own a reproduction item.

Check the label again – 

The label inside each piece of antique furniture should have markings from certain providers such as hardware stores, which can give you an indication of where your item was manufactured. 

For example, if the hardware store is from New York or Chicago, then you have a piece of furniture made in America. If it has a stamp from England or France, then it is more than likely an older reproduction made to look like antique furniture.

Look for glues – 

Most experts agree that plastic glue was not available until 1927, so if you see any type of glue on your furniture then it is more than likely a newer piece that has just been made to look old.

Turn over the label – 

The label located on the bottom of a piece of furniture should display where the item was manufactured and what kind of wood was used to make it. 

Look at these two pieces of information carefully because they could be indicators of its age. For example, if your piece is labeled with a WWII-era stamp from the United States and it has been made out of pine, then it is probably a reproduction that was made after this time.

Check labels for size – 

Look at the label carefully to see how much information it contains when you are trying to date your piece of furniture because there should be something in there about when or where your item was manufactured. 

If all of the pertinent information is missing from the original label like dimensions and production dates, then chances are good that this item was not originally built in the 19th century and could be more recent than you originally thought. 

However, keep in mind that some pieces might have had their labels removed or destroyed during the period in which they were originally used, so just because it does not have any label information does not necessarily mean that your item is new or fake.

Look for veneer – 

The type of wood used during different eras can help you date your piece if this information is listed on the label / or inside the furniture. For example, mahogany veneer over pine is something that was typically popular during the Victorian era and Queen Anne period, so this information can give you an idea of when your piece might have been originally made.

Look for plywood – 

If you see plywood instead of solid wood planks on your furniture or cabinet, then it most likely is not original to the house and was probably manufactured after WWII. Most 19th century pieces would have had solid wood laminations rather than plywood because it was not available until the early 20th century.

Look for staples – 

If small metal objects are sticking out from the side of a piece of furniture that looks like staples, then your item is a reproduction or a newer piece made to look older. Most 19th-century furniture would have had nails to hold the pieces together and not any other types of fasteners.

Check construction – 

The type of wood construction found on your piece can also help you date it as well as the style of legs or handles on your piece. 

In general, most 19th-century pieces had solid wooden construction and would not have been completely covered with veneer because plywood was not introduced until after WWII.

Conclusion: It can take a lot of practice and study to learn how to identify newer pieces versus original antiques, but once you have been able to train yourself on what items are usually created during which years, then identifying fakes becomes much easier. 

Keep in mind, older furniture generally has better quality workmanship than newly manufactured items purchased off the shelf at home stores today.

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