Buying Chinese Antiques

Chinese antique chair Qing Dynasty 250 years old $400. Ancient vase 300 years old $250

Do these people really think they can sell such items on eBay or from their business with any sort of legitimacy? Absolutely and they do time and time again. I guess the people paying $20,000 USD for the 300-year-old vase at an auction in New York have been living under a tree and are not aware of eBay.

Unfortunately, the consumer is ripped off every time they purchase an item from these people. 250 years to 300 years old, maybe it was made last week, in a little factory out of old wood. Hmm, but why would they lie to me?

One of my goals is to educate the customer on what is antique and what is not. Yes, even industry experts are fooled by the world’s best artisans, but I can assure you that you will not be buying any legitimate antiques from the Ming dynasty for less than the price of a Porsche.

The Chinese government also forbids the exportation of antiques and associated items over 250 years old, that is not to say that none have ever left the country, but the chances of you buying them from eBay or a quaint little shop is extremely rare.

Often a retailer will provide a certificate of authenticity or age, but unfortunately, these are often not worth the cost of the paper they are written with. Unless the certificate is written by an industry expert or someone of relevance, it is just another piece of advertising designed to entice the unsuspecting customer.

With that little piece of knowledge, we can then sift through a lot of the rubbish that is on the market today. Most pieces that are sold are well under 150 years old, which is still an antique in my eyes.

If you are buying from a dealer, ask them as many questions as possible to help determine how genuine the piece is.

Did they source the furniture direct from China or from a wholesaler locally?

Do they travel to China themselves?

What type of timber is the piece made from? The type of timber will often dictate the value of a piece combined with its age.

Do they know what province the piece came from?

Does the piece smell of fresh paint and or lacquer?

Are the painted pieces fresh and distinct or faded and smooth?

Are there wear marks on the drawer runners?

Are the dovetail joints small and universal in shape? They should be large and chunky if they are hand-made.

A very old antique lacquered cabinet will often show cracks running through the lacquer, this type of ageing extremely difficult to reproduce and is often a good indication of age.

Unfortunately, there are also many companies that are also deceiving the unsuspecting retailers of the world, which unknowingly pass the incorrect information onto the public. They manufacture “antiques” from old lampposts and the like so the timber is old, but the construction is new. This type of furniture is hard to detect from the genuine antiques, but asking the right questions and looking at some of the details discussed above should help.

Another indicator though not often realized until your treasured piece is at home is the movement of the furniture. Chinese furniture is designed to move with the seasons, however excess cracking and continual movement is often an indication of young timber that has not yet dried properly.

All of the above should be taken into consideration when deciding to purchase a genuine Chinese antique. This should be a basic guide for those of you who wish to purchase genuine Chinese antiques.