The vintage shopping handbook: How to spot the best treasures
It takes a special set of skill to master the art of antiquing. Skills that are cultivated by research, practice in the field, patience, and training your eye to recognize quality. In other works, it takes time to learn the ropes and even experts are always looking to expand their knowledge. To help you hone your skills, below are a few tips on spotting the best furniture, rugs, art, silver, etc. At Antique Allure, in Southampton, PA, we’re always bringing in new inventory.
If it looks new, it most likely is. Pay close attention to the nails: newer shinier nails indicate newer construction. The presence of dovetail joints, which hold wood furnishing together without the use of nails or other hardware is a sign that a piece was made by a cabinetmaker as opposed to being mass-produced or factory-made.
Origin, style, dye technique are factors that can affect the price of a vintage rug. One feature that can help you determine quality without help or knowledge of an expert is knot count. In most cases, a tighter knot, meaning more knots per square inch, translates to higher quality. Flip a rug over and check the back to get a clear picture of its knotting. As a rule, steer clear of untied edges and excessive fraying. Handmade rugs are woven so it’s likely that once a loose end exists, it’s only a matter of time before the whole thing unravels. A vintage rug is unlikely to be in perfect condition. Think of uneven piling, discoloration, or slight wear and tear as beauty marks that only add to the charm and history of a piece.
Print reproductions are made with tiny dots meant to mimic the brushstrokes of original artwork. This isn’t to say prints aren’t worth buying but it’s good to know what you’re getting to avoid overpaying. The web of fine cracks that appear on the surface of aged paintings is called craquelure. It’s something you want and not in any way indicative of poor condition. Craquelure denotes authenticity and is highly sought after by art collectors.
Know the difference between silver plate and sterling. There is nothing wrong with silver plate, it’s a wonderful way to bring home the elegant look of silver without the high price tag. But sterling holds its value, retaining a high resale price no matter its age, where silver plate does not. It also really stands up to the test of time. Sterling can last hundreds of years if taken care of properly. You can easily tell if a piece is sterling with a simple trick. Hold a small magnet up to the design. If the magnet adheres, then the piece is not sterling and is likely plated silver or something else. A magnet is not attracted to true sterling silver.
These are a few items to understand while you are out treasure hunting. There are certainly other antique items out there that are worth understanding but this is just a brief introduction to shopping for antiques. The most important thing to remember is to have fun and if something speaks to you, consider it. Do your homework, though, you don’t want to overpay for something that is worthless just because you like it.