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How to Find Out About an Antique Dining Set

2012-10-31   Views:8

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In the U.S., the earliest dining sets date from the 1790s, when formal dining became fashionable. Consisting of at least six chairs, a table and sometimes a matching sideboard, these elegant pieces of furniture were made by skilled cabinetmakers in t

How to Find Out About an Antique Dining Set

In the U.S., the earliest dining sets date from the 1790s, when formal dining became fashionable. Consisting of at least six chairs, a table and sometimes a matching sideboard, these elegant pieces of furniture were made by skilled cabinetmakers in the cities and by local joiners and carpenters in rural regions. Plenty of reference books exist to help you find out more about an antique dining set, but the best starting point is to search out certain identifying features with your own eyes.

Skill level:Moderate

Instructions

1 Look at the design of the table first of all. From roughly 1790 to 1840, drop-leaf tables -- that is, tables with extra leaves at the ends that could be raised on supports - were in vogue. Table legs were square until the 1820s, then adopted a sabre profile. From the 1850s well into the 20th century, dining rooms were graced by draw-leaf tables which extended by pulling on the outer sections and inserting one or more spare leaves into a central well. Such tables were often supported on sturdy central pillars.

2 Examine the chairs. From the 1800s to the 1840s, chair manufacturers referenced ancient Greek models in their designs, with open backs and sabre legs, the front and back pairs pointing in opposing directions. From the 1850s, heavy carving and solid backs inspired by the Italian Rococo became all the rage.

3 Inspect both the table and chairs for decorative elements. On pieces made before the 1850s, expect to see features such as reeding -- a series of carved corrugations -- on chair legs, and cross-banding -- small pieces of veneer set at right-angles to the prevailing grain -- on tables. After the 1850s, carving becomes more much pronounced, with the additional appearance of applied gilt metal on some pieces.

4 Take what you have learnt from your inspection and browse through some general histories of furniture at the library, using the index to look up such features as "drop-leaf," "draw-leaf" or "saber leg." Doing this should help to confirm -- or alternatively qualify - your initial conclusions regarding the dining set's date and style.

5 Type "dining set" and a group of key words drawn from your researches into your computer's search engine. By consulting online antique stores and auctions, as well as the online catalogues of traditional auction houses, you should be able to establish a sense of the dining set's value.

Tips and warnings

From 1910 through to the 1940s, the better manufacturers would often label the undersides of their pieces with ivorine -- fake ivory -- labels. The presence of such as label on a dining set is a sign of quality but also a clear indication of a 20th century date.

If you are considering buying an antique dining set, make sure you know the whereabouts of any extra leaves. Often stored separately in basements, they can easily be lost or damaged.

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