When searching for antiques, the most coveted feature is authenticity. While most dealers will know how to label them correctly, you will most certainly want to know how to tell the difference between a true antique glass picture frame or an antique oval picture frame and a very good replica.
There are three types of vintage oval frames in any give frame shop. Those that are authentic antique, a high-end replica that will look just as stunning and a low-end replica that will cost less. See below for tips on how to distinguish a real antique frame.
The frame will be aged. In a genuinely antique frame, the wood on the frame would show signs of significant age. It will likely look dark and uneven on the back from oxidation over time. In a newer frame, not only will the wood be in much better condition, but the coloring will appear more even and lighter. It may also be aged or show signs of cheap quality on a low-end replica.
Look for labels. A good craftsman company will want to mark their product with their name, and possibly the date of its making. The label on an older frame will be worn or even partially removed. It can be made of paper, metal, carved in or even stamped in. If you can locate an original label, a quick internet search will tell you a lot more about the frame itself, and if it’s worth a lot of value.
Examine the color. A true antique frame will have a very rich color, possibly uneven in parts. A cheap replica will be more brassy in tone, and not have the rich tones of a gilded golden frame.
Check the details. A low-end replica will have very low-resolution details in the surface decoration. These frames are often made from mass-produced molds that are simply glued to the frame. A true antique frame is often hand carved so that the details will be much more defined.
Look for layers. True gold and silver are applied in thin sheets, or leafs. This causes the layers in an expensively made frame to have obviously "leaf lines," where the layers are seen on top of each other. Low-end cheap frames will not have these lines as they are often painted their golden color.
Finally, feel the frame for weight. Older frames are made from heavy, quality wood, then carved or given molds, then gilded with true metal. All of this delicate process will make them heavier than a cheap replica. A fake frame may be much lighter, seem hollow or made from easily breakable materials, and show all of the signs of the previous tips like colors, wood coloring and poor detail.