Perhaps you are considering purchasing an old bedroom suite or maybe you inherited one that you would like to know more about. Maybe you want to know the historical value of pieces you already own. Here are some basic elements to consider when evaluating antique furniture. Furniture is considered "antique" when it is at least 100 years old. This valuable furniture is usually handmade as no mass production occurred until after the 20th Century.
Determining Age, Quality and Condition
Examine the piece for ripples and uneven markings to indicate its handmade status. If the piece is veneer, the veneer will be thicker than modern veneers. Look for thickness where the veneer meets the substrate (at the back of the chest or where a piece has broken away).
Determine the style of the piece. The shape of the legs and form of the hardware will help set the antique in its time period. For example, a cabriole leg with a pad foot is an indicator of the Queen Anne style of the 18th Century. An antiques guidebook will provide pictures and descriptions of various furniture periods.
Scrutinize the construction of the antique. Mortise and tenon joinery was the method used in the late 17th Century. Handmade pegs, dove-tailed drawers and hand saw markings are clues to the age and quality of your piece.
Look for a maker's mark, which makes research much easier. Has your piece been altered or "married"? An alteration means the piece is not in its original condition. It may have been reduced in size, have repositioned pulls or show plugged holes. A "marriage" means the piece is made of parts that did not originally belong together. Alteration and marriage devalue the piece.
Consider the various pieces in the bedroom group to help determine age. Bed frames were not made to standard sizes until the 20th Century. There won't be king and queen size beds in an antique group unless they have been altered. Washstand tables and commode chests commonly were used in 17th, 18th and 19th Century bedrooms.
Examine your furniture for carved ornamentation, inlaid marquetry, original finish and patina. These add value as does rarity. Repaints, major repairs and replaced mirrors detract from the value. Also, the desirablity of the piece factors in; oversized pieces are less desirable for placement in modern homes.
Research your findings in the antiques guidebook.
Investigate antiques sellers who post pictures, descriptions and prices online, as they are a good source for comparison. Also think about hiring a qualified appraiser to examine your pieces.