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5 Ways to Tell the Age of an Antique

Sure, you know how long youíve had an antique ñ but what about figuring out how long that antiqueís been around? In addition to asking for a professional opinion, there are a few hints on the antique itself that speak to its age.

If you want to take a guess, check out a few of these tips for estimating your antiqueís age. There are several little things that could provide big answers, so read below for some clues.

how to date antiques

  • Markings

    Antique furniture often has stamps, markings, or dates that can be keys to the age of the piece. Youíll likely find one of these in a tough-to-see spot, like underneath a table or on the backside of a dresser drawer. Do a thorough investigation of the piece ñ even non-furniture might have dates like this ñ to find this info, and youíll have a better idea of the itemís age. (And you can research what you find.)

  • Signs of Use

    An older piece wonít just look used — itíll look used in the right places, worn in the spots that would have more contact than others after regular use. This might not help determine a precise age, but itíll give you a rough idea of whether itís a young or old piece.

  • The Materials

    The stitches in fabric or the nails in furniture can provide lots of information about an itemís age. You might find a particular nuance that didnít exist until a specific year or decade, which tells you more specifics about the time period. Things like Philips screws and synthetic stuffing werenít around even in the early 20th century, so finding those items gives a hint to age range.Square wooden screws can mean an item is mid-19th century or older ñ tons of little things can be hints to an antiqueís age.

    Even the kind of glue ñ as Wheat Hills explains ñ and how the glue looks can give a hint about the itemís age. Crystalized glue is a sign that the item is older, as it was probably made with animal products.

  • Hand vs. Machine

    If it looks imperfect, like it was hand-cut or hand-shaped, consider it older. If it looks like a machine did the work, think mid-20th century most likely. Things like hand-cut dove tails ñ according to Ackermanís ñ mean furniture is likely from the 19th century. If it looks too perfect, chances are it isnít as old as you might think.

  • Color

    From photographs to certain metals, specific materials will discolor with age. Papers that have turned yellow, fabric that has faded, and even wood that has changed color slightly can all say something about those itemsí ages.

Of course, estimates are just estimates ñ without proper documents or dates written on items, there might not be an exact answer to your antiqueís age. But some of these clues can be great things to research for a rough guess.

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