Source Antiques Like the Pros: How to Spot Fake Antiques

Sourcing antiques like a pro isn’t simply knowing where to buy antiques: Interior designers, antique dealers, landscape architects and other design professionals not only source antiques in Europe, they also must learn to authenticate the provenance of antiques and spot fakes! Not even experts can always spot a fake: a recent news story about a woodworker who fooled antique experts with a fake American secretary has everyone buzzing! I spoke to a room of design professionals on How to Source Antiques like the Pros with interior designers Robert Passal and Garrow Kedigian at an event at the D&D Building hosted by The Robert Allen Duralee Group. 

(The event was streamed on Facebook LIVE by Aspire magazine, watch here.)

One hot topic the audience asked the panel was, How do I spot fake antiques? 

How do I spot fake antiques?

First and foremost: Spotting fake antiques and reproductions that are being presented as real antiques takes practice – and even the experts can be fooled. One of my favorite stories is that the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam has the largest collection of fake Rembrandts in the world! They did an exhibit a few years back of all their fake Rembrandts. The reality is they didn’t buy them as fakes: they thought they were buying real Rembrandts but found out later they were not. This just goes to show: Mistakes can happen to anyone.

What I say is buyer, beware. You should always do as much as you can to authenticate a piece, but even the most educated buyer can make a mistake. But my theory is, when you’re buying an antique, it comes down to:

  • Do you love it?
  • Is it a price you’re willing to pay?
  • Are you willing to live with it even if it’s not what you think it is?

Buyer, Beware: How to Avoid Buying Fake Antiques

Some reproductions are over 100 years old, and antiques themselves! If you love it and its perfect for your needs, there’s nothing wrong with buying a reproduction or ‘fake antique’ – as long as you know it’s not an authentic antique and it’s not being misrepresented. One of the biggest trends in ‘fake antiques’ is when vendors use antique materials to create newly made pieces. An important question to ask is, “Is this a period piece? Or a style piece?” Unfortunately, there are dealers who will deliberately mislead a buyer. Here are some steps you can take to avoid buying fake antiques:

  1. Educate Yourself
    Do your research before you shop and become familiar with the style of antiques you are shopping for.
  2. Ask
    Ask the dealer if the piece is a genuine antique, inquire about its provenance.
  3. Buy From Reputable Dealers
    Most antique dealers love their business and are proud of their stock and reputation. They like talking about their inventory, and telling you how they acquired a piece and sharing their expertise.
  4. Inspect
    Take a close look at any piece you are interested in buying. Do the joints look authentic? Are there signs of modern manufacturing methods? Are the selections – or the prices – too good to be true?
  5. Consult an Expert
    At The Antiques Diva®, our job is to connect you to the right experts who have what you’re looking to buy.

Interior designer Robert Passal pointed out that with experience, you can usually tell an authentic antique from a fake. He added that sometimes reproductions aren’t so bad! Design expert Garrow Kedigian agreed that sometimes reproductions a good purchase: you have to understand decorative art versus antiques. It’s all about the style – sometimes a piece is perfect, even if it’s not an antique.

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Toma – The Antiques Diva