Discovered | Antiques expertise

Posted: July 13, 2007

As anyone who's ever purchased a piece with patina knows, old-looking doesn't always mean old. Nor does expensive always mean priceless, or signed always mean authentic. Fakes abound in the antiques and collectibles universe, and detecting them sometimes can seem as daunting as traveling to another planet.

Unless, of course, you have a knowledgeable traveling companion at all times. If your collecting interests lie in more than 50 popular categories, Judith Miller's new book, Antiques Investigator: Tips and Tricks to Help You Find the Real Deal (DK Publishing, $25), could be just the help you've been hoping for.

Miller is known for her annual price guides to antiques and collectibles, as well as works on such niche fields as costume jewelry, tribal art and perfume bottles. This informative volume is more about "how to" than "how much" (though Miller offers some of the latter as well), and serves as an illustrated primer on style periods, the aesthetic shifts/technological advances that prompted changes, and the fine details to watch out for when examining such items as ceramics (Ming to Meissen, functional to figurines), teddy bears, silver, and samplers.

Also included are page after page of photos of hardware, chair backs, furniture legs and feet, and decorative motifs - so you'll know your cabrioles from your splayed Regency, your arts and crafts scarab from your Egyptian revival scarab. And those inscrutable hallmarks and makers marks - there are keys to many of them, too.

A timeline at the back is helpful for settling arguments about when the German Empire period ended and the Biedermeier period began. And a glossary of terms can further clarify such matters as the difference between marquetry and parquetry.

What Miller's book offers is not antiques for dummies. Rather, it's for those nonexperts among us who know enough about antiques to know we can never know too much.

- Joanne McLaughlin

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