Authentic Pieces vs. Reproduced

There are a lot of things to consider when sizing up authentic versus reproduced pieces. In the realm of interior design, choosing between an authentic and reproduced piece can mean the difference between being under budget or over budget. A good designer can determine when it’s okay to save the expense and go with the reproduction. However, the savvy and resourceful designer can find the authentic piece and not pay full price. The decision between authentic and reproduced pieces can be a fun or cruel game, depending on how high the stakes are.

Tall Black Mahogany Dresser with Multicolor Mandala Design

There are fine craftsmen who design fine quality pieces that may not be considered a “reproduction” but are reminiscent of period styles. Then there are the cheap, poorly-made knock-offs that some don’t even consider to be reproductions. If you’re going to delve into the choice between authentic and reproduced work, keep these things in mind.

How to Tell Them Apart

There is a good rule of thumb in the art of choosing between authentic and reproduced pieces. When a reproduction is of good quality, even if it’s not authentic, the price will reflect the quality. The peices' particular construction traits will reflect that quality, as well. In a chest of drawers, for example, a well made piece will feature dovetail construction. Often times, corners are cut on a poorly made reproduction. You can tell that a piece is low quality when the legs of the piece are not smooth to the touch. The finish will be lacking in sanding and finishing steps if the piece is cheap. The piece may not feel stable and may seem like it would easily give way under any sort of weight. This is a dead giveaway. Finally, turning a table over will reveal a lot about the care, or lack of care, that went into its construction.

Amount of Wear

This Hekman New Traditions Nine Drawer Ebony Inlay Dresser has several construction details that demonstrate a commitment to quality construction. The name reflects a modern piece that’s reminiscent of an antique style of furniture with a modern take. Whether real or reproduced, you’re generally going to have a certain amount of wear or patina. This is important when you’re determining authenticity. Does the patina exist in places on the piece that it wouldn’t in a poorly made reproduction? Is there an inconsistent occurrence of wear, indicative of a real antique? When a piece is distressed in the finishing process, the distressing tends to be consistent throughout the piece. No matter how random, there will be a pattern to it. If the finish is rubbed off, it’ll be rubbed off consistently here and there. Look for fading due to sun exposure that’s not easily reproduced. It will tell you that the piece sat in one location for a number of years.


Know What You Want

When you’re going for an overall aged look, you’re may want to invest in a period style piece which may have that distressed or time weathered look. “Weathering” is a reproductive process used on the finishing. When deciding whether to invest in a authentic or reproduced piece, you must evaluate the importance of the piece in the design. Is the piece a super star or is it the “look” that’s important? Is its authenticity key? If so, look for pieces at an antique dealer, but if you want to save money, you can try your hand at the flea market. Just make sure to turn the piece over, check the legs and inconspicuous spots for poor finishing techniques, look for consistent wear (as opposed to natural wear), and do your research/ look for a maker’s mark. Happy hunting!