True antique items possess genuine signs of age and wear, as well as characteristics of the manufacturing processes from the time period during which they were created. Because many antiques where fashioned by hand, a good rule of thumb is to check for imperfections caused by human error during the construction process.
Generally speaking, antiques differ from modern furnishings in the way they are made. Modern manufacturing employs the use of machined joints and hardware. Traditionally, antiques were constructed by a craftsman, who handcut joints using dowels, or the mortise and tenon method. Reproduction antiques are often smooth and symmetrical.
Antique furnishings were often made with more than one type of wood to accommodate a lack of quality wood. Reproduction pieces are often made with a single type of wood.
Since antiques exhibit wear in areas where wear would naturally occur, such as the armrests of a chair or the handle of a pistol, any dents, scratches or worn portions in these areas is an indication of an antique. Also, upholstered antiques are filled with natural fibers, such as a horse hair or cotton. Synthetic fibers were not used in furnishings until later. True antiques often produce a musty odor, indicative of years of use or storage.