Thomas Sheraton furniture is some of the most sought-after and expensive antiques on the market today.
The Thomas Sheraton (1751-1806) style is an enduring classic. It is also quite often faked and controversial in its attribution. One of the main reasons is that few people know what his iconic furniture looks like or how to identify its maker’s mark, which is confusing even for professionals.
Although his dates were 1751-1806, he was not active throughout that timespan. He only started his career in 1769 when he took an apprenticeship with William Tatham of Great Titchfield Street, London.
In 1775 Sheraton published the first of his three pattern books, The Cabinet Directory. He opened a shop in 1777 at 179 Piccadilly, London, and set up a cabinet-making partnership with John Cobb from 1779 to 1783 – this is the most productive period of Sheraton’s career.
In 1786 he published another acclaimed pattern book, A Collection of Designs for Household Furniture, after which he retired from the furniture business to pursue another career as a teacher. He returned to cabinet-making in 1794 when he formed a partnership with Lewis Feuchtwanger that ended in 1800.
The last published pattern book of Thomas Sheraton was A Collection of Designs for Chinese Cabinet Furniture.
That’s when he set up a school of design, which was only active for one year.
Sheraton died in 1806 and left his business to his son George, who moved it to 125 Piccadilly.
THE MOST SOUGHT AFTER SHERATON FURNITURE:
After Thomas Sheraton died in 1806, his son George Sheraton took over the family business. He moved it to 125 Piccadilly in London and continued publishing pattern books of furniture designs under his father’s name.
The style was also continued by other cabinet makers after Thomas’s death. But when people talk about the Sheraton Style, they usually refer to the furniture made by Thomas.
Some of the most sought-after Sheraton pieces are his sideboards, bookcases, cabinets with delicately carved serpentine fronts, and other types of furniture decorated with Chinese motifs.
The best examples bear the simple incised carving of their maker’s mark with a star next to it. The star is said to have been added by Sheraton himself.
Another symbol frequently found in his work is the carving of twelve dots above or below a pattern number. These dots represent the twelve months of the year, one dot for each month. His bookcases were frequently loaded with small details, such as – floral carvings, curved ornamentation, and other well-executed details.
CONTEMPORARY DESIGNER FURNITURE:
Today countless furniture designers have been heavily inspired by the Sheraton style. Some of the most prominent names include Timothy Oulton, Roche Bobois, and Luke Edward Hall – all have done a great job in creating very elaborate designs that mimic the Sheraton style.
MOST COMMON FAKES:
The fakes of Thomas Sheraton’s furniture are some of the most common on the antique market, as such pieces can sell for prices as high as $500,000. The forgeries usually lack small details that would allow them to be authenticated, and it’s become quite common for unscrupulous dealers to pass on modern furniture as originals.
It’s important to note that Sheraton did not produce much in the way of cheap furniture. His prices ranged from £80 upwards, and that made him quite expensive and exclusive for the time.
Furniture fakers will try their hardest to replicate this exclusivity by putting Sheraton’s name to modern reproductions.
It’s also very important to pay attention to small details. If the workmanship looks bad or incomplete, then it may be fake, original pieces are made using hand tools, and they show marks of that. Also note that many finishings were added after the furniture was made, including the back of shelves.
Since there are many fakes of Thomas Sheraton’s furniture designs, it’s important to check details found on pieces that are supposed to be authentic. This will help you learn more about the design and workmanship used to make Sheraton’s furniture, which is the key to spotting a fake.
The list below also includes tips on how to spot fakes, but it’s important to note that the lines between forgeries and great copies are very thin – just because you haven’t found an exact piece doesn’t mean that your copy is fake. And even if it’s a fake it can still be a good piece of furniture worth a lot on the market, so don’t think twice before buying something you like and can afford.
One characteristic frequently found on Sheraton furniture is the jointing of corners – this was used to give his pieces extra strength, and it’s prevalent on many of his cabinet sides.
It is also widely used on false Sheraton pieces as a sign of quality. It is very important to know that the joint is placed backward on modern fakes as it’s an easy detail to copy.
Thomas Sheraton’s furniture was characterized by his rounded details, especially those found on the legs of his pieces. The best way to check for originality is to look at the corners of these parts because they were often carved with a chamfer or made using hand tools – this leaves marks that can be easily spotted.
Also, pay attention to the curve’s transition from round to flat on each part – originals have a very smooth transition between the two states whereas modern fakes will often show rough or incomplete spots. Note that Sheraton’s pieces are known for their “clumsy curves”, so any efforts to correct this by sanding off corners can be easily spotted too.
Sheraton’s round shelves were known for their unusual design elements, including the flat portion above the edge. It’s important to note that this shelf was never meant to be used as a place to put things, it was simply a decorative piece.
This means that a fake will often lack this flat area or have it filled with parts that were meant to be attached to it. Usually, the lack of this area is split into two by a line that was used to attach the shelf’s rim to its base.
It’s important to note that modern pieces will sometimes feature this flat area as if it were part of the original design – this is done to fool people into thinking that the piece is worth more than it is.
Labels were often put on Sheraton’s furniture, especially when he was in partnership with Thomas Chippendale. These labels can be very helpful in determining whether or not a piece is fake, especially when they have been preserved in good condition.
However, the simple presence of a label doesn’t always mean that a piece is original – it is still important to look for signs of age and damage to evaluate its authenticity.
Next time you see a Sheraton replica with a “Thomas Chippendale” label, please remember that Chippendale stopped using his name for pieces made after 1764.
Sheraton was a big fan of the medallion, and he used it on many of his great designs – original pieces will often feature one consisting of a flower in a circle surrounded by leaves.
It is important to note that there are many different types of medallions, in Sheraton pieces. This detail alone is not enough to identify an original.
The best way to do it is by looking at the general quality of the work – carvings with rich ornamentation that shows off expensive tools tend to be more likely fakes, especially when placed on a low-cost piece of furniture.
Sheraton’s furniture had a lot of leather inserts – these were more often found on the inside, but sometimes they could be placed on the front of a drawer or cupboard as well. This feature is not so common on Sheraton furniture, especially the modern fakes that are often made with less expensive materials to reduce their price.
The best way to spot fake leather is by looking at its color – good Sheraton pieces will show a rich brown tone, while low-cost replicas will usually feature lighter colors or signs of wear and age.
It’s also important to look at the leather itself as fakes can often be made with poor-quality materials that don’t justify the high price.
Sheraton’s furniture was typically known for its geometrical design, and it is sometimes easy to spot a fake due to the style’s unique charm. While details like the number of moldings used above windows are important, other small elements can help you spot a fake – for example, Sheraton’s furniture does not have any baseboards!
On original pieces, the floor just meets the bottom edge of the piece, without being protected by a separate strip – this is one of the small elements that most fakes will miss.
Keep in mind that this is not an easy detail to spot, especially if it’s hidden under carpets or other floorings!
Sheraton used four types of leg designs – some were square while others were more ornate. Keep in mind that a straight leg design does not automatically mean that a piece of furniture is from Sheraton’s era – it’s important to look at all the other features before making a final decision.
That being said, this type of leg design can help you spot some fakes – take a look at the Sheraton table in our picture, for example. It has four short square legs that are simple but elegant – this is the type of leg design you should be looking for when trying to spot an original piece of Sheraton furniture.
DOTS ON LEATHER INSERTS:
Sheraton’s furniture had a lot of leather inserts, and most pieces featured tan-colored leather with dots decorating the front. These dots can be very helpful when identifying an original piece as they are not found on modern replicas!
The best way to spot these details is by checking the leather carefully, especially in places where it is exposed – original pieces will have tan-colored leather with very carefully placed dots. Modern fakes are often much less detailed in this respect, so they can easily be identified by missing or off-centered dots!
The backs of these chairs usually have ornate carvings – every single detail is carefully designed so it’s easy to spot fakes with no carvings or very poor ones.
Keep in mind, however, that this is not an easy detail to identify if you’re not familiar with Sheraton’s style – even the most experienced furniture dealers can have some difficulties when it comes to spotting original designs!
You may also be interested these recent articles?
What is Hepplewhite Style Furniture?
And, What is Chippendale Style Furniture?