Fake, Faux or Repro
long as there have been antiques, there have been fakes and
reproductions. But telling the two apart can often be difficult even to
the trained eye of an expert. But antiques, however, have become
fashionable and as a result many of them are being copied or reproduced
as fast as can be.
copies of clothing and jewelry, many pseudo-antiques are so
cheap-looking as to be obviously shams. But there are clever copies,
too, on which time and effort have been spent to make them look
authentically aged. Because fakes and reproductions look so much like
antiques themselves, particularly to those who know little about the
real ones, people who want to buy or sell old things, should do all they
can to learn how genuine or false they are.
Three Groups of
Pseudo-antiques fall into one of three groups: cheap imitations, clever
fakes, and sound reproductions. All three have been made to such an
extent during the 20th century that probably every major group of
antiques has been cloned. Itís easy to be fooled, particularly if the
maker crafted the article with intent to deceive, but the most careful
fake is no more comparable to the antique on which it was based than the
garish imitations of fine old china and lamps sold in many discount
stores. Their quantity should be one clue to their recent origin. The
details that havenít been copied carefully enough for them to be
reproductions is another.
other hand, a clever fake is sometimes offered as a genuine antique,
particularly in the case of furniture. Old wood taken from an antique
chest and combined with new wood to make another piece is a practice
thatís becoming common, especially in England. However, much effort
has been expended to copy characteristic details of style and to
simulate aged materials, a fake is still a counterfeit.
is, of course, nothing wrong with a good reproduction as long as the
owner doesn't try to pass it off as a genuine antique. Many
reproductions are such faithful copies that it would be difficult to
tell the difference, if it were not for the lack of wear; years of use
and care add special character to any antique. Valuable Austrian
Biedermeir furniture is a good example. So many pieces were destroyed in
World War II that the art of reproducing them is flourishing. And some
of the reproductions look as good or better than the originals.
is No Guarantee of Authenticity
Some people buy reproductions, particularly in furniture, because they
think they cannot afford genuine antiques. Actually, reproductions that
are careful replicas are about as costly as the originals. This is as
true of a mirror in American Chippendale style and a brass hanging
lantern as it is of important pieces of furniture. The cost of the labor
necessary to produce even a clever fake built of wood, of which only
one-fourth is old and the remainder treated to look old, is so great
that the price must be nearly as much as that for an antique. Anyone who
thinks that a pine spice chest a century or so old is overpriced at $225
to $350 has only to consult cabinetmakers or repairers about mending a
broken drawer or replacing a missing one to realize that a reproduction
would cost more than an original. Still, however much a reproduction
costs, it cannot be expected to sell for as high a price as the antique
on which it was modeled.
have been popular for a great many years, but the number of antiques
being reproduced and sold as such has never been greater than at the
present time. Furniture is most widely represented, for there is not
only a great deal of it but also the examples range from certain styles
of the 17th century through the 18th and into the early Victorian era.
All sorts of household furnishings and accessories from wallpaper and
textiles to pressed glass, silver, and numerous things made of other
metals have proved popular as reproductions, too.
few people know enough about more than one field of antiques to tell a
fake or reproduction from an authentic piece. This is as true of antique
dealers as well as the general public. An antique dealer who is an
authority on 17th- or 18th-century furniture may have only superficial
knowledge about the pieces made during those years. By the same token,
the pressed glass expert may know little about silver and china.
then, can the average person do? He or she can study exhibits and
collections, learn from books and other people, look and listen before
and during auctions, compare a questionable piece with an authenticated
one. Above all, he can ask questions of a reputable dealer, of experts
such as curators and others who work with antiques, and of collectors or
anyone who has studied some special field. Collectors usually admit to
having bought one or more fakes or reproductions while they were
learning the distinguishing characteristics of their chosen item. Those
people who think they know more than they do about antiques, who close
their minds to the fact that fakes, imitations, and reproductions exist,
are the ones who are disappointed about their discoveries or are fooled
in their purchases.
more articles by Bob Brooke, please visit
his Web site.
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