Leather is a wonderful material for furniture. It is long lasting and durable. I am not an expert in this so antiques expert William Robinson has put together this guide to buying leather antiques.
Buying leather can be a tricky business especially when you’re attempting to purchase antique leather furniture. Before seriously considering acquiring any antique leather items you should consider the condition of the leather, the period that the antique was made in, whether the leather is original or has been reconditioned; keep your eyes out for other small signs of wear and tear in the woodwork too as this can also affect the value of the piece.
The first step in defining the value of the leather antique that you are looking at it to determine whether or not the leather is original and if so what type of leather it is. Inspect the wrinkles within the leather; if they are distinct it’s likely to be aniline leather but if they aren’t clear it may be that the antique is actually made with semi-aniline or pigmented leather. Semi-aniline or pigmented leather is leather that has been coated with a thin layer of paint to prevent damage due to heavy use; this type of leather is often found in sofas due to the amount of use that they get.
The condition of the leather is also another method of valuing it. If the leather shows no signs of wear and tear it’s likely to have been restored, and so it isn’t the original piece which decreases the overall value of the item.
If the leather shows a small amount of damage such as some cracking or slight fading due to sun exposure it could be signs of an original which makes it increasingly likely that the antique is an expensive piece that has been cared for well.
On the other hand if the piece is soiled and possesses a lot of obvious signs or damage it isn’t going to be worth a lot of money, even if you can clean the leather, the damage from sunlight and constant use will still remain. These pieces can be refurbished with the correct period leather which can reinvigorate the antique, however incorrect refurbishment can damage the antique value so make sure you use a professional restoration service.
When deciding on the value of a leather antique you should also inspect the wood work and the finish of the wood as this can be a tell-tale sign of how well the item was maintained and the quality of the piece as a whole. Signs to look for when examining the wood would be small bore holes or a warping of the wood.
Small holes in the wood are often caused due to an infestation of wood worm or the common house borer that was either left untreated, or was treated at quite a late stage of the infestation.
Warping of the wood can mean that the antique was left in damp storage conditions, if this is the case it won’t be just the wood that has been affected, the leather too will likely have been damaged due to the damp.
If you have spotted signs of the antique wood beginning to warp or lose its shape check for signs of mould such as black spots or a slight mildew on the surface of the antique. Mould can damage the wood and leather by making them more susceptible to pressure, temperature and everyday use. If the wood shows signs of rot the piece may have been damaged to the extent that it can’t be used for its intended purpose; this of course would also decrease the value of the furniture.
There are other methods of valuing your antique leather furniture such as discovering the age of the antique, but to do this you must either find the label on your piece or hire a professional to appraise your furniture as if the piece has been cared for the age can be difficult to determine alone. Using antiques guides could enable you to identify the ages of an antique however if you are not 100% sure you should ask for an professional appraise.
Author: William Robinson is an expert in antique chairs and has been working with antiques since he was a boy. William now works at Loveday Antiques