Tuesday, June 25, 2024

How to Spot an Authentic Piece of Chinese Antique Furniture

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When purchasing Chinese antique furniture, it is important to ensure that you get an authentic piece. It can be difficult to tell a genuine piece from a fake. However, by researching and understanding the characteristics of authentic Chinese furniture, you can ensure that you’re investing in an item that will last for many years. In this blog post, we’ll explain the key features to look out for when shopping for Chinese furniture so you can spot an authentic piece.

Table of Contents

Familiarize yourself with the different styles of Chinese furniture

Look for certain features that are unique to Chinese furniture

Inspect the construction of the piece

Consider the age of the piece


Familiarize yourself with the different styles of Chinese furniture

Chinese furniture is a broad term that encompasses many different styles, each of which has distinct characteristics. Some more common styles include Ming and Qing, dating back to the dynasties of their respective namesakes. Chinese dynasty-century furniture often features intricate carvings and unique, hand-painted designs.

Ming Dynasty furniture is marked by its use of straight lines and simple shapes, often without decorations. Its designs are usually limited to simple and functional structures. The wood used for this style of Chinese furniture is usually hardwood with a natural dark patina.

Qing Dynasty furniture tends to be more ornate than Ming, featuring elaborate carvings and designs. It is also characterized by its use of lacquers and exotic woods such as rosewood and ebony. This type of Chinese furniture usually features bold colors and intricate patterns.

Look for certain features that are unique to Chinese furniture

When looking for authentic Chinese furniture, there are certain features to look out for. These features will help you determine if the piece is a true antique or a reproduction. 

One of the most obvious features of Chinese furniture is its ornate decoration. Most antique pieces will have intricate carvings or inlays in the wood. Look for detailed designs and symbols unique to Chinese culture, such as dragons or lions. These decorations are often made of rare materials such as ivory, jade, and mother of pearl.

Chinese furniture is also known for its unique joinery techniques. Traditional pieces were often built using interlocking joinery, which allowed for strong and durable construction without using nails or screws. Look for wooden dowels, tongues and grooves, and mortise and tenon joints.   Additionally, the edges of Chinese furniture pieces often have smooth, rounded curves and detailed carvings that evoke the designs of nature. Other distinguishing characteristics include inlaid mother-of-pearl or other stones, hand-painted designs, and ornate metal hardware. 

Finally, pay attention to the hardware used on the piece. Authentic Chinese furniture usually features brass hinges, drawer pulls, and locks, which have a distinct patina over time. If the hardware is shiny or brand new, it is likely a reproduction.

Inspect the construction of the piece

When examining a piece of Chinese furniture, pay close attention to the construction. Look for signs of high-quality craftsmanship. Many authentic pieces are crafted using traditional techniques that have been passed down for generations. Chinese furniture is renowned for its craftsmanship and meticulous attention to detail, so take your time when inspecting the construction.

Look at the joints and see if they’re perfectly fitted together and if the pieces are connected securely. Pay attention to the mortise and tenon joints, typically seen in traditional Chinese furniture.

It’s also important to note the type of wood used in the construction. Traditional Chinese furniture often uses softer woods such as cedar, pine, or bamboo. Examine the surfaces carefully to look for patterns or grain to determine if it is softer wood. Finally, check for any signs of wear and tear, as authentic Chinese furniture should show signs of age and use over the years.

Consider the age of the piece

A piece’s age can help authenticate it as genuine Chinese furniture. Generally speaking, the older the piece, the more likely it is to be authentic. However, there are certain features you should look for to determine the age of a piece.

One of the most reliable indicators of age is the hardware used to construct the piece. Early Chinese furniture was often made using brass or wrought iron hardware, while more modern pieces may feature screws and nails. A closer examination of the hardware will also tell you if it has been replaced, indicating that the piece is not quite as old as it appears.

The type of wood used to build the piece is another clue as to its age. Older pieces were often constructed from hardwoods like rosewood or elm, while newer pieces are more likely to be made from softer woods like pine or poplar. It’s also worth noting that certain types of wood, such as oak and walnut, have only been available in China since the 20th century, so pieces made from these woods are likely to be relatively recent. Lastly, if you find a piece that shows wear, scratches or fading in certain areas, it could be an indication that it is an older piece.


Chinese furniture is not only beautiful, but it can also be a great investment. Knowing how to spot an authentic piece is essential to ensure you get the real deal. The key is to familiarize yourself with the different styles, look for unique features, inspect the construction, examine the finish, and consider the age of the piece. Having an expert appraise the piece before investing may also be beneficial. By familiarizing yourself with the characteristics of Chinese furniture, you can ensure that your purchase is genuine.

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