From the moment I first started collecting antiques, I wanted to know how to tell if something was old or not. Most dealers are not willing to share trade secrets so their answers tended to be vague at best. A knowledgeable dealer shared this important information.
An old and wonderful object will have a rich and varied surface.
This information has been very helpful as a collector and dealer. Great and valuable pieces have been reproduced for centuries. Keith and I work hard to make certain that a piece is authentic and properly described.
Time works magic on most things, subtly altering color and surface. While a recently made piece of wooden furniture might have a couple of variations in color, a 200 year old piece of furniture will have hundreds of subtle variations. A new piece of porcelain will have little sign of age and use, an old piece will show variation of color, craftsmanship and consistent patterns of wear. The signs of age are subtle and require trained eyes to identify. Authentic wear will be predictable but also random. While an old painting will have the gentle and subtle varied pattern of small and large pattern of lines created by the varnish coat expanding with heat and shrinking with cool, a new painting, or copy will have either no cracking or cracking so uniform it defies belief. A piece of furniture made by hand will show the tool marks consistent with the period. Irregular saw marks, hand planed surface, dove tail, variations in color and the irregularity that vanished once pieces were made by machines. Time and the quality of an object made by hand will create a “lively surface” that simply cannot be well or cheaply imitated.
Howard @ aaxsf.com