In Cumbria and Preston, antique desks can generally be trusted to be genuine, so long as they’re purchased from reputable antique dealers. However, sometimes even a dealer can be fooled.
In 2008, Christie’s of London narrowly escaped selling two “antique” cabinets which were revealed to be the work of a master fraudster. In April of this year, police in Abu Dhabi arrested two men attempting to auction fake pre-Islamic antiquities which, had they been genuine, would have been worth £532,000.
Misleading buyers is not always down to fraudulent activity. Regularly, auctioneers in Cumbria see “antique” dining tables which are, in fact, modern reproductions – often submitted by people who purchased them in good faith. Another example is Victorian balloon back dining chairs . Made by Lancashire cabinetmakers like Gillow’s they are worth a fortune, but there were many inferior copies made in the 20th century.
In Lancashire and Cumbria, Victorian mahogany pedestal desks are widely available and not actually that expensive to buy. However, you should be wary of anything labeled as a “Chippendale original” and carrying a hefty price tag. Unlike Gillow’s, Chippendale did not sign his work and so it was relatively easy to fake. That’s not to say your antique desk is not a valuable piece of furniture – Chippendale had many contemporaries who copied his style, which was reintroduced in the Chippendale Revival period, but the price should accurately reflect this.
A good antique dealer in Preston will look carefully at the antique desks he is offered for sale. Lack of wear-and-tear, uniformity, and the use of modern screws are all proof a Victorian mahogany pedestal desk in Lancashire is most likely a reproduction.
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