A carving is a work of art made from a piece of wood, stone, ivory, bone, or some other hard material. While carvings attract tourists with their exquisite craftsmanship, serious collectors judge pieces by their rarity and age. If you are in the market for a carved piece of art, learning what to look for can help you confidently pick out an authentic antique.
Determining a Carved Piece's Authenticity
An authentic carving is an original piece with a known origin. Artists or skilled artisans make carvings by hand, so each is unique or part of a limited series. The origin of an authentic antique often traces back to a particular region. You may run into a piece that looks antique almost anywhere, but determining whether it really is as old or as rare as advertised may be difficult. Always check where the carving comes from and who the seller is. Sellers who deal in inexpensive, mass-produced replicas generally do not have authentic pieces. Some carvings have the artist's signature or a trademark sign stamped on the bottom. Keep in mind that even those kinds of markings are easy to replicate, so it is best to look for pieces with verifiable certificates of authenticity.
Genuine Antique Carvings
Carved pieces are hard to make and require a great deal of time and skill. This means that few carvings ever come out of an artist's workshop absolutely perfect. Real antiques produced by hand seldom have perfectly straight lines, as sharp edges and uniform sizes are almost impossible to achieve without the use of a machine. Genuine antiques do not look machined or flawlessly polished. Remember that depending on the age of the piece and the method used to preserve it over the years, true antiques show signs of weathering and damage. Antiques particular to a certain region or culture have common characteristics, as artists working in the same part of the world tend to use the same materials and tools. In other words, an antique claiming origin to the African continent is likely to be of ivory or wood, not another material more commonly used in Europe, China, or the Americas.
Imitation Antique Carvings
Anytime you see large quantities of the same or similar items, it is a good sign that the pieces are not genuine antiques. Perfectly smooth edges, lack of damage or weathering, mismatched subject matters, and material uncommon for the artist's location are sure signs a carving is an imitation. A simple rule of thumb is that if the price seems suspiciously low for an antique carving, it is most likely a mass-produced copy. It is always a good idea to test the purported antique's weight by holding the piece in one hand. Replicas made of modern resin materials are relatively easy to recognise, as they feel rather light and flimsy in the hand.