Dating antique frames

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In the same way an old piece of wood furniture might oxidize and darken over time, so does the exposed wood back of an antique frame.

If the wood is light or if it looks new, then the frame is not old. The back of the frame might also be evenly stained or painted.

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If this is the case, it is likely a newer frame. Not all older frames have labels but some do and if you find one it can both help you date your frame and add to the value. These labels can be paper, stamped, stenciled or engraved metal.

Dating antique picture frames

It is important to mention that new framing galleries often use labels too. Either way, the label should help you date the frame. Antique frames and high quality reproduction frames are generally pretty heavy. Antique frames and high quality reproduction frames are made of solid wood rails and either carved or have applied decoration. The composition is coated with gesso and then gilded.

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However, the lower quality copies do not. These frames tend to be lighter and often feel like they might be hollow. For example, Polyresin, a material commonly seen in the manufacture of new reproduction frames is employed in the manufacture of the lower-end quality frames by heating the material and then using a mold of sometimes of an old frame to create the form. Polyresin frames can be similar in appearance to fiberglass and the surface texture allows for the addition of a metallic or metal leaf finish.

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Gold and silver leaf come in very thin sheets and are applied delicately. Many antique frames and high quality reproduction frames have these leaf lines.


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Cheaper frames do not. In the photo above, the leaf line is the bright area of gold on the outer edge of the frame. It is true that antique and high quality reproduction frames can have different tones.

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