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Learning how to Spot Fakes

In all collecting it pays to know how to tell a real piece from a fake one. But how do you go about doing this if your not an expert?

Firstly check for identifying marks. A company signature or marks that are typical of a period like the Qing Dynasty are well documented and wealth of information is available to the savvy collector online. Sometimes fakes can be obvious, for example a tag that wouldn't have been from the era that an antique is from. For example most antique Chinese porcelain pieces from 1875-1930s have one of two marks on them that would indicate it was from an earlier period. The first is that all Chinese porcelain was required to bear a "China" mark on them after 1891 but "made in china" didn't show up till the mid century period.

Secondly check for wear. An antique Chinese vase that is being advertised as from the Song Dynasty 962 -1279 is likely going to have either wear or more likely damage and repairs in some form. If the vase looks perfect either your in possession of a national treasure or the more likely conclusion is that it isn't as old as advertised. Manufacturers of fakes know how tempting it would be to find a vase that could be worth a million dollars, so if it seems to good to be true it probably is. Wear is not necessarily a bad thing and its a good indicator your looking at the real article.

Thirdly what materials were used to make it? Do they look typical of the period that the antique is advertised to come from? certain materials oxidize or change over time so it can make identifying an older piece easier. How does it feel in your hand? often the quality of older pieces feels different than their modern knockoffs. If you collect something get to know how it feels and looks, even small details like the surface marks and how it wears over time.

Fourthly does the item have, provenance? An 800 year old Chinese vase will have traveled through many hands and likely many countries before reaching you. Does the piece have a history? was it part of a well known collection before you had the opportunity to acquire it? Well known auction houses will always post information about provenance of items because it increases their value substantially if their history is known. Don't be afraid to ask an antique dealer where an item was acquired. Did another collector previously own it? Though this isn't always a definitive way of authenticating an item it does add more weight to saying its an original.

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