When you are looking into antiques you will find that many period pieces are intricate and beautifully made. Many have high price values, but can you always tell what period of time they are from and what they are classified as.
Victorian pieces of furniture are perhaps the most popular antiques to this day, and as such, you have to know exactly what makes this style of furniture distinct, so that you can benefit from selling it to a collector, or if you want to start collecting them yourself.
The date of the Victorian period is from the late 19th century from about 1850 to 1910 and there were various types of woods used including rosewood, mahogany and walnut to make all kinds of furniture. Usually the designs of these pieces were chucky and heavy with very dark finishes and ornate carvings. There various decorative elements added, and marble top were often used.
The Victorian furniture is often referred to as being clumsy. The next thing you can look at to determine whether a piece of furntirue is from the Victorian era, is to look at the type of finish used. Until the Victorian period only one type of finish existed that was clear, and this was called shellac.
The varnished and lacquers that we know of were not developed until later into the 1800’s. Usually the finish of a piece of furniture is shellac if it dates back to before 1860. Sometimes on very old pieces, they even used milk paint, wax, or oils to seal the wood. To date French furniture you can look and see if the finish is French polished, which is a version of the shellac.
For materials and trimmings, you can tell a Victorian piece by the puff that it has. This puff is usually due to overstuffing, because everything during that time had to be luxurious and ornate. Carvings, curved edges, rounded segments an scroll were used all the time, and braiding was also used frequently, normally in jeweled tones. Gold was a favorite color to use for upholstery.
Another way to tell if a piece of furniture comes from the Victorian era or not is to look at the types of nails and screw used. Before 1790 the rose head nails were used. These were forged by blacksmiths and are irregular in shape.
From 1790 until about 1850, the nails used were square headed nails, and from about 1850 when machines started to be used to make objects, the headless, tapered, machine cut nails were used in furniture making. Then in about 1890 the Penny and Brad nails were used.
In the authentic Victorian pieces you will also see that most hand planning was done for the unseen parts of furniture and you can find this out by feeling with your hand along the underlying parts and inside the drawers. You will feel uneven rows in the wood.
Another thing to look out for in chairs and arm rests are the dowels used to hold them together. If a piece is from the Victorian era, it will not have rounded dowels, but squared tenons instead. The wood used will also be thicker and contain virtually no blemishes. Knotty pine was not used at all by olden day furniture makers. By looking at the non mahogany furniture that was painted, you can also determine how old it is and whether it takes back to the Victorian era.
Once you know what to look out for when you go shopping to an antiques fair just to your local antique shop (I like Driscolls Antiques) , you might just fine the bargain of the century.