Remember the adage if it sounds too good to be true it probably is. Whilst you can still pick up the odd fantastic bargain most people in the trade know what they are selling. If it sounds absurdly cheap then ask youself why.
So unless you are sure about what you are doing avoid third world pieces because they are frequently not what they seem.
A disproportionately large number of “antiques” from China turn out not to be right. For the same reason pieces from Italy should also be viewed with suspicion.
A checklist which is worth running through would include:
- Listen to your gut feeling. You are probably more expert than you think at picking up on non-verbal body language, or on a feeling about a piece which is not always easy to put into words. Trust these instincts and walk away if you are in doubt.
- Is the style of a piece consistent throughout? Often bits which are added on can be obvious anachronisms if you take time to stand back and look at the piece in its entirety and ask this question.
- Look for patina and signs of wear which are mostly consistent throughout, noting that parts which are handled or subject to any friction over the years will wear more than others. Such wear is typically seem on the handles of instruments or the base of pottery.
- Beware of pieces covered in multiple tiny marks which which are identical in size and shape. They can give a superficial appearance of ageing but are seen on pieces which have been artificially aged by being hit repeatedly with a single instrument.
- On porcelain look for signs of wear to the finish and check that any signatures are under the glaze by rubbing a nail over them.
- Dirt and dust accumulate with age and if there is none, or if it is not uniform or in an expected place then ask why.
- Beware if you come across multiple examples of one kind of item in one location.
- Age related shrinkage is the rule in many materials and this will change the symmetry of an object. This is often the case with wood where perfect uniformity is a hallmark of something made recently.
- If you are buying on line then read the description accurately. Many adverts are cleverly worded to make an object sound old without actually stating that is it. “In remarkable condition for age” sounds good but if they do not say what the age is it means nothing. “Not sure of the age” and “The experts will know” should also ring alarm bells.
- You should feel more confident buying items which are described in detail from reputable sellers who have a clear returns policy.
- Avoid sellers who conceal the ID of purchasers (so that they cannot be told they have been sold a fake).
When you have been collecting for a while and if you are well read on your subject you should rely on this knowledge. If you are offered something which seems remarkable, the like of which you have never seen before then there is a good chance that this will be not right.
If you remain unsure about fakes you can always protect yourself by buying from an established dealer. The likelihood that you will be sold duds is significantly reduced and if something does turn out to be suspect any decent dealer will accept return and full reimbursment. This is one of the advantages of paying top dollar.