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How to spot a fake: Porcelain

Monday, 22 Apr 2013 | 5:13 PM ET
How to Spot a Fake: Porcelain
Friday, 19 Apr 2013 | 12:00 AM ET
Porcelain has an almost infinite number of styles, shapes and varieties, but Curtis Dowling of CNBC's Treasure Detectives" shares some simple ways to determine authenticity.

According to CNBC "Treasure Detectives" art forgery expert Curtis Dowling, some think porcelain is tough when it comes to determining authenticity. After all, its use dates back almost 2,000 years, and in that time a dizzying array of styles and designs have been introduced.

As it turns out, learning how to sniff out a fake is pretty straightforward, provided you know what to look for. The first thing to figure out is the printing or application technique, which you can determine just using your fingers.

"If it's printed, is it transfer printed, or is it painted?" Dowling asked. "If it's transfer printed, you can feel the transfer, and it's all even. If it's hand-painted, you'll be able to feel the maker's brushstrokes."

Source: Sotheby's

Another giveaway is weight, so he recommended learning to tell the difference between porcelain, bone china and slipware by how its heaviness. Shape is another feature to familiarize yourself with, as there were a number of forms through different eras.

Also, examine the maker's mark.

"It sounds strange, but the maker's mark will give you almost everything," Dowling said. "Like silver, maker's marks are often dated. So if you're looking at porcelain or bone china from England, Europe or America, if you just buy yourself a book of marks, there's a very good chance you're going know exactly what you're looking at very quickly."

Finally, he recommended carrying a small magnifying glass along with the book of maker's marks, and gave some parting words of wisdom:

"As a very, very famous porcelain expert once said, 'If you want to be a complete expert, what you want to learn is just 20 different shades of white.' "


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Contact Treasure Detectives

  • Do you have an item that you want the Treasure Detectives to investigate? Contact us at TreasureDetectivesTV@gmail.com

Meet the Team

  • Curtis has over 20 years' experience in fine arts and antiques and he hates fakes! He is on a mission to help people discover the truth and put the fakers and forgers out of business.

  • Catherine Knebel is Curtis Dowling's research assistant and a treasure detective with an auctioneer's background.

  • Andy is the treasure detective with people skills. People like Andy and he can get them to talk and give him valuable information.