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10 Brilliant Tips to Spot Hidden Gems in Antique Stores

The hunt is half the fun when shopping for antique furniture and other vintage items. To make sure you find the best of the best, read and take these 10 great tips to heart.

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handlewk1003mike/Shutterstock

Check the Furniture Hardware

If you’re looking for an older piece of wood furniture, take a look at the hardware. The pulls and knobs are some of the easiest parts to replace when someone refinishes a piece of wooden furniture. Do the handles, knobs and pulls look like they belong on the piece? The best pieces are ones that have been well taken care of and that have their original hardware. If you find a piece with brass hardware covered in paint, follow these tips to safely remove the paint without hurting the brass.

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woodMartin Christopher Parker/Shutterstock

Look at the Joinery and Nails


To make sure a wooden piece was made by a craftsmen and is not a mass-produced piece, look at the joints and nails. If the nails are older and dull that’s a clue that they are probably original to the piece. If there are dovetail joints that’s a sign something was individually made. To care for your antique wooden pieces, learn how to use gentle natural cleaning products.

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rugVelveteye/Shutterstock

How to Determine if a Rug is Antique


To determine the age of a rug, look it over carefully. One of the first things to examine is the weave. If a rug is made by hand there will be irregularities in the weave. Fold and move the rug to see if the color goes to the base of the tufts and the knots. When it comes to Oriental rugs, the more colors used, the higher the value. Another characteristic to check is the knot density. Take a look at the back of the rug and focus in on a 1 inch x 1 inch patch. Count the horizontal weave and vertical run, and multiply the two together. The higher the density, the higher the quality. If there is an accident on your rug, use these tips for cleaning it yourself.

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statueBruce Rolff/Shutterstock

Examine Frames


One of the biggest giveaways to a newer art piece is the frame. Take a look at the back of the art. Is the wood stained? Do the nails in the frame look new? Sometimes you’ll even find a sticker from the manufacturer, which is a giant clue the frame is new.

When looking at frames without artwork, go for solid construction and make sure the size will work with whatever you want to put in the frame. Here’s how to preserve old photos that look great in old frames!

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toolSkoda/Shutterstock

Tools

Depending on how you want to use your tools you can look for different conditions. If you want something to display, you probably want it to look rustic and worn. If you want to actually use the tool, take your time examining it. Planes (used for shaping wood) are popular pieces at antique stores. Many were handmade and have the makers initials carved in them. Check out these 20 old tools that are worth a fortune!

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teapot PunkbarbyO/Shutterstock

Is it Real Silver?


When on the hunt for sterling silver pieces, be aware many items are sterling plated and there’s a big difference. Sterling silver is more expensive and last hundreds of years with proper care. There is a trick to telling the difference between the real sterling silver and silver-plated. Bring a small magnet with you and if the magnet adheres to the piece, it’s not sterling silver. Magnets won’t cling to precious metals such as real silver or gold. Get some more ideas on how to add metal accents to your home decor.

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cup Katarzyna Mikolajczyk/Shutterstock

Is it Real Porcelain?


Bring a small flashlight with you and hold it up to a porcelain piece, if the light shines through it is real porcelain. Also, do some research on what marking porcelain manufacturers used so you can quickly tell if it’s what you’re looking for by glancing at the bottom of the piece. To help you display your beautiful porcelain dishes, read these tips for organizing open shelving.

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shirtLolostock/Shutterstock

Textiles


For vintage textiles and clothing, look for uneven stitching and hand sewn buttons and closures. These are signs the item was handmade. Also, look closely for stains. Many older fabrics have some yellowing and stains which can be removed, with great care. Examine wool items for moth holes. Don’t miss these tips on how to dry vintage textiles in a gentle way.

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necklaceHanka Steid/Shitterstock

Jewelry


Before buying a real (not costume) piece of jewelry at an antique store, investigate the seller. What are their online reviews like? Do they have any paperwork to go with the piece? Ask about the refund policy ahead of the purchase.

Check the maker’s mark (a sign of authenticity)and see if there are other indications as to what type of metal the jewelry is made from. Check the prongs, look at the back of the piece, examine stones, looking for chips and cracks. If it is a real pearl, the shiny pearl exterior can’t be rubbed off. For a safe place to store jewelry, make this jewelry cabinet.

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lampmilosljubicic/Shutterstock

Stained Glass

When you examine a stained-glass piece look for chips, cracks and loose glass. Also, check the leading between the glass to make sure there are sharp, clean lines. If you’re lucky, you might find a gem, like this Tiffany lamp! Have you every wondered how to drill a hole in glass? Check this out!