Table of Contents
- 1. Authentic Chinese Antiques Are Really, Really Old
- 2. True Antiques Have Documentation
- 3. You Got Your Antiques From a Collector
- 4. The Antique Doesn’t Look Like a Reproduction
- 5. You Got It From an Excavation Site
- Don’t Get Fooled by Fake Chinese Antiques
China is one of the most ancient civilizations still around today. Its history dates back to before 1600 BC!
And throughout its entire history, China has been producing some of the most beautiful, valuable, and sought after antiques. Chinese antiques range from priceless jade sculptures and painted porcelain china to picturesque paintings and hand-crafted furniture. There’s truly a Chinese antique for every taste.
But, these days, many of the so-called “genuine” Chinese antique vases, furniture, and paintings aren’t, in fact, authentic. So, how can you know if your new Chinese antiques are legit? We’re helping you divide the reals from the fakes with this complete guide.
Want to know how to tell if your Chinese antiques are genuine? Then you better keep reading because this guide is for you!
1. Authentic Chinese Antiques Are Really, Really Old
China has been around for over 3000 years. And some of the country’s most popular antiques date back thousands of years, too. That’s why the first sign of a real Chinese antique is visible wear and tear.
For example, Chinese porcelain-makers designed their wares extremely thin and fragile. It’s very prone to damage. So, if you get a piece of porcelain claiming to be from China’s imperial error but it’s in immaculate shape, run for the hills.
There are other ways to date Chinese antiques aside from signs of age. Here’s how to figure out how old your antiques are by category.
Dating Antique Chinese Furniture
Authentic Chinese furniture should include the craftsman’s signature and, potentially, the date of production. However, dates can be forged. That’s where scientific dating processes come in.
Is your antique made of wood, fabric, ivory, bone, or some other organic material? Then you can use Carbon dating. Carbon dating identifies the amount of decay of the natural substance’s carbon atoms.
Carbon dating can be extremely accurate, but it has limits. Antiques aged 300 years and younger could be off plus or minus 100 years. If your antique is older than 300 years, carbon dating could be off plus or minus 250 years.
Dating Antique Chinese Paintings
Again, a genuine Chinese painting will bear the artist’s signature and, often the date of production. But, as we’ve mentioned, it’s relatively simple to forge dates on counterfeit paintings.
For a more accurate method, carbon dating will do. Carbon dating is especially useful for paintings done with organic paints. Still, the canvas your antique Chinese painting is on can work, too, since canvas is an organic material.
Dating Antique Chinese Pottery
The most valuable kinds of antique Chinese pottery are made of porcelain. After all, China invented porcelain. Porcelain is a material made from heated materials like clay or pottery stone.
Real porcelain is easy to identify, especially if it’s painted. Painted porcelain has the unique quality of raised enamels. Artists layered colors on top of each other, meaning the painting on the porcelain wouldn’t feel flush when running your fingers over it.
The most important kinds of Chinese porcelain were the blue and white wares. This is what most people think of when they imagine antique Chinese pottery.
China learned how to produce porcelain centuries before people in Europe. So, compared to other antique porcelain pieces you own, your antique Chinese pottery should look significantly more aged.
Discoloration, missing glaze, crackles, and chips are all good signs you have an authentic piece. Of course, the most devoted forgers know this, too, and will make the counterfeit pottery look old.
The only way to know for sure how old and, therefore, how real your pottery is is to get it scientifically tested. Porcelain isn’t an organic material. That’s why authenticators use thermoluminescence (TL) testing instead.
TL tests can tell you the age of fired materials like porcelain. Unfortunately, TL testing can sometimes ruin a true antique. Plus, bad actors can even forge this process, applying heat to the materials to falsify the age.
X-ray testing can supplement a TL test. X-rays can show if forger has repaired an antique, assembled a reproduction using a modern process, used modern materials, and more. If you want as close to a guarantee of authenticity as possible, we recommend getting an x-ray to supplement the TL test.
2. True Antiques Have Documentation
Aside from scientific dating, provenance is the only way to undeniably prove your antique Chinese piece is legit. Provenance refers to documentation of where something originated. Provenance proves ownership and authenticity.
if your antique piece comes with documentation, it’s most likely legit.
If you go to a Chinese antique dealer, your piece may come with an authentication sticker. This means the dealer has documentation to prove the antique is genuine.
However, anyone can buy these stickers. This is why it’s critical to only shop from trustworthy Chinese antique dealers with good reputations.
3. You Got Your Antiques From a Collector
When you get your Chinese antiques from a well-known collector, the collector does much of the authentication legwork for you.
Famous Chinese antique collectors like John Alexander Pope of Washington’s Freer Gallery of Art are experts at sorting the fakes from the genuine pieces.
The Weisbrod Collection curated by Dr. Gerald Weisbrod is another good place to go for authentic Chinese antiques. Dr. Weisbrod has been collecting Chinese art, furniture, and porcelain since the 1970s.
With so many years of experience shopping for genuine Chinese antiques, you can trust that he knows how to spot genuine pieces.
4. The Antique Doesn’t Look Like a Reproduction
Fakes have exploded on the Chinese market since the dawn of the twenty-first century. But experts suggest that if you can learn to spot a fake Chinese antique, you’ll always end up with a genuine piece.
Here are some signs that your supposed Chinese antiques are really just reproductions.
- The antique Chinese vases’ markings look newer than the painting on the rest of the pottery
- The antique Chinese vases are perfectly symmetrical, which is virtually impossible when made by human hands and implicates some modern process or machinery
- The antique Chinese porcelain glaze has no imperfections, which implies it’s new because there would be signs of wear if it had been around for hundreds of years
- The decorations and the artist’s or craftsman’s mark look like they were done by the same hand (authentic Chinese pieces were always painted by one person and marked by another)
- The Chinese letters are misdrawn because the forger expected buyers not to know Chinese calligraphy
- The damage or wear looks older than the rest of the piece to deceive the buyer into thinking it’s older than its real age
- The piece doesn’t have wear to the places you’d expect, including the rim for a cup or bowl, the bottom of a plate, etc.
Another way to tell you’re dealing with a fake is if the piece is dirty or grimy, but extremely easy to clean. Real Chinese antiques recovered from excavation sites and the like should be covered in grime.
But because of how long it took that grime to accumulate, it should be extremely difficult to clean. If the dirt wipes right off, it’s a sign you’re dealing with a dedicated but misleading forger.
5. You Got It From an Excavation Site
Before the erection of the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River in China, excavation sites lined the river’s banks. Excavation sites are places where historians and anthropologists dig up ancient artifacts. In this case, we’re talking ancient Chinese artifacts.
Buying antiques from excavation sites is how Americans got started with ancient antiques in the first place. The craze began when the excavation of Pompeii began in the eighteenth century.
Nowadays, if you can get your hands on a Chinese antique from an excavation company, you can guarantee it’s legit. The same goes go buying antiques from Exhibitions.
Of course, you may have to shell out an arm and a leg to get your hands on these antiques. Chinese antiques, in particular, are highly valuable. Excavationists and exhibition curators know this, and they won’t let you get away with a steal.
If you’re looking to make a real profit on your Chinese antiques, we recommend going with another tip on this list.
Don’t Get Fooled by Fake Chinese Antiques
Fake Chinese antiques are everywhere these days. But if you use these tips for spotting replications, you can start your very own genuine Chinese antique collection. Or you can sell your authentic antiques for a profit.
Want more advice for making a quick buck on the side? You’ve come to the right place. Keep scrolling for more articles just like this one!