Antique Furniture Worth
Perhaps it’s a chair with a yoke back, pierced splat, cabriole legs with claw feet. It might be that you’ve kept your grandfather’s favorite desk with Rococo influences and fluted legs—or perhaps found a delightful small sofa that consists of two seats sharing a common back. You have double-checked several websites and are sure it is a Boudeuse and want to know how much value your furniture truly has.
Researching the value of your beloved antiques may be a misleading experience and if you are not an antique expert, the chances of finding the exact knowledge you need to know can be difficult.
So many factors go into determining what value antique furniture has, which is why it can be easy for the inexperienced antique admirer to make a few costly mistakes ranging from outright fraud to being given incorrect, damaging advice on care and upkeep.
Identifying a Victorian Couch
Though you may already know this, either as an expert in antiques or you’ve spent years collecting them, it’s important first to know how to identify if you have an antique Victorian piece before attempting to assume the value.
Victorian furniture design was widely based on furniture even older than the Victorian era. During the first part of Queen Victoria’s reign, many design styles were simply copying of earlier pieces, however this period was still heavily characterized by more attention being paid to surface decorations using gilding, mounting, and inlays. There was an influx of heavily carved pieces in Norman and Gothic styles, commissioned and purchased by the Victorian new rich, while other pieces featured knights or ladies hand-painted onto the surfaces.
Victorian furniture cannot generally be contained or described as wholly one style, however, there is one thing that all authentic Victorian shared which does give identifying whether a piece is genuine or not: how the furniture piece was constructed.
Victorian master carpenters cut no corners and rushed no joinery. The first thing you will want to do is gently examine the frame, or structure of your piece from the underside as much as possible. An authentically made Victorian couch will have an exceptionally constructed wooden frame, typically featuring dovetailed joints. If you see any modern glue or easily identifiable Phillips head screws, unfortunately, you are looking at a cheaper reproduction.
Next, you will want to inspect the back frame, arms, and legs. Ensure that the construction of all areas match so you are now aware if there has been modifications or repairs, as these can affect the value of your piece.
Now, you will want to scrutinize certain details, such as:
- Symmetry. Is it perfectly balanced, is the symmetry flawless? Authentic hand-made Victorian furniture will never be 100% perfect.
- While expertly made, you should still be able to tell hand-carved decorations are hand-made. Using details such as: rosettes, finials, incised lines and elaborate feet to help you identify 19th century sofas. Vintage couches from the 20th century will have less wooden elements outside of legs and be more heavily upholstered.
- Padding and springs: many antique sofas have been reupholstered so yours may be missing this—but older Victorian couches that have not been reupholstered should have strong metal springs and horsehair padding. Down may also be used. Any signs of modern fiberfill or foam is a clear sign of reupholstery or perhaps, a reproduction.
- Condition of fabric. If you plan on reupholstering your sofa, this may be less of an issue; however, original fabrics are very desirable on antique sofas. Velvet or tapestry fabrics are very common for Victorian sofas. Sturdy, practical wools appear in vintage sofas of the early 20th century along with richer velvets and even leather.
- Step back and consider your piece on the whole. Look for any inconsistencies in materials or quality to assess authenticity. If you are going to have your Victorian sofa repaired before assessment of value, make very sure the structure is sound and that no water damage has happened, and the joints are not weak. Repairing an entire Victorian sofa can turn into an affair more costly than the couch is worth.
Identifying Chippendale Furniture
Identifying whether the chair, desk or table you have has been made by Thomas Chippendale, Britain’s finest furniture maker can be made easier by knowing the unique innovations, designs, and techniques used.
Beloved for his incredible, fanciful furniture featuring the evolution from the Rococo to the Neoclassical, he was an extremely talented draughtsman and designer—so much so that his furniture designs are still extremely sought after.
There are several tell-tale observations for marking whether or not your piece is genuine. The most important are:
- Chippendale had superb understanding of timber and its qualities. On plainer mahogany pieces, he used cross-grain rather than long grain on a simple molding that added refinement while other furniture makers at that time would not.
- If your table or desk features a mirror, Chippendale applied material between very expensive plates and the backboard, creating a cushion that allowed flexibility. Peripheral ornaments were dovetailed into the frame, rather than being glued.
- The positioning of the arm supports for a Chippendale chair is a dead giveaway. They always joint the seat rail rather than the top of the leg. If the chair is an oval back, you will usually find an exposed upright strut.
- One of Chippendale’s favorite practices were “stacked blocks,” for extra strength. Often the Chippendale technique was employed where the bracket feet of chests or case furniture were supported by laminated, or ‘stacked’ blocks, glued together and then glued behind the brackets. This gave the foot more strength and resilience.
- Chippendale’s famous pedestal desks feature a unique system of locating just two castors centrally beneath each pedestal. This takes into account uneven wood or stone floors that would have been prevalently used in the 18th century. This allowed the desk self-leveling stability and ease of movement.
- Carved Cabriole legs. These are serpentine-shaped legs in the Queen Anne Style and the signature hallmark of Chippendale chairs or table legs.
- Feet: Three distinctive styles were Chippendale favorites: the ball and claw, the lion’s paw and the round club-type foot.
- Mahogany was Chippendale’s preferred wood to create with, imported from the West Indies as it could support his elaborate, beautiful hand-carved details. During the American-Chippendale period, cherrywood was an alternative choice.
- Hand carved details most often include acanthus leaves, C-scrolls, scallop shells, rosettes and fluting that reflect the Neoclassical and European influences.
- Nails were handmade, Chippendale’s originals will not be perfectly symmetrical. Original Chippendales will feature irregularities due to being completely hand-made. You may notice carvings made on the right side do not perfectly match the left, joints are not flawless, and you may see obvious tool marks. These are all positives, however, furthering the evidence that your furniture may be an authentic Chippendale.
Thomas Chippendale did not use a maker’s mark, unfortunately. So, examining your furniture in close detail to identify it will be key to finding out if it is an authentic Chippendale made by him or by his craftsmen in England. It is generally advised if you are still not sure after taking all of the above details in mind to get a professional assessment.
The only other way to be sure is if your Chippendale pieces comes with the original documents during the time of purchase.
Average Values of Antique Victorian Furniture and Chippendale
Victorian sofa: On average, an authentic Victorian sofa in top condition can sell from between $1,000 upward to $4,000
Chippendale chair: On average a genuine Chippendale single chair can begin at $300 and reach upwards of $600.
Chippendale table: Smaller genuine end or side tables can start at $350 and range up to $88,721!
Chippendale desk: Ranging from the $1,500 range and can exceed $68, 500 for an authentic George III Mahogany Secretary.
Authentic antique prices range so wildly as it entirely depends on so many things. The condition your antique is in, if it has been reupholstered or if it has been repaired and whether the repair has been done expertly or less-than-expertly. If an antique has been refinished, if original parts have been replaced—all of these contribute or impact the price of your antiques.
Armed with the knowledge we’ve shared above, you are well on your way to becoming a more confident, discerning eye toward fine Victorian and refined Chippendale antiques.
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