List of antique furniture makers marks

Discerning homeowners love the elegance and sophistication of antique and vintage furniture.

We appreciate the superior craftsmanship and quality, investing in old furniture pieces that are rarely matched in today’s world of mass-produced goods.

But what do we know about the people who made these exquisite items? Can we discover more about them from their work? How do we identify antique furniture? Can we be sure that it’s a genuine antique?

Maker’s Marks

One way of identifying antique furniture is by looking at the maker’s mark. Many furniture makers in years gone by added an identifying mark on the wood furniture they produced, and they did this to take credit for their work and as a trademark.

It’s a signature that helps us ensure that we are dealing with a genuine article. This mark not only adds interest and appeal, but it also provides provenance and, therefore, value.

However, finding and identifying these can be a challenge!

Our list of antique furniture makers marks will help you discover more about your treasured pieces. Along the way, we’ll add some fascinating information and tips to help you be confident that your handmade furniture is the real thing.

What Is An Antique?

Most people agree that an antique has to be at least 100 years old. The trouble is, using this as a standard, more items become antiques every year. But just because something is old, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s antique. So, we tend to regard any collectable furniture more than 100 years old as an antique.

Vintage furniture is highly collectable but is usually between 20 and 100 years old.

How To Identify Antique Wooden Furniture

One way of identifying real antique wooden furniture is to check the maker’s mark. These are usually hidden as the makers didn’t want to spoil the look of each piece of furniture.

To find the mark, look at the entire piece. Remove drawers from an antique dresser, check underneath or on the ends, and look on the furniture’s underside, legs, and back.

What Do The Marks Look Like?

There is no uniform type. These marks can appear as ink stamps, ivorine (an early plastic from around 1900) labels, embossed metal tags, or are carved, branded or stamped into the wood. However, many will be paper labels with printed or handwritten details, usually the name of the furniture maker and their address.

Does All Antique Furniture Have A Maker’s Mark?

Unfortunately not. French antique furniture is much more likely to bear a mark, as they had strict rules concerning this. In 1743 a specific guild was established to verify and stamp* every piece of furniture made in France, so it is unusual to find French antiques without an identifying mark (usually branded with hot iron).

However, the opposite is true in Britain (especially before the 19th century), making life difficult for modern collectors as more investigation is required. It is pretty rare to find a piece of British antique furniture with a maker’s mark, so it’s a real bonus when you do find one.

*In addition, pieces were stamped with JME which stands for ‘jurande des menuisiers-ébénistes’. This means ‘jury of cabinetmakers and carpenters’, and items were only stamped if they passed inspection. Workshops were inspected four times a year, and poor quality furniture was confiscated. So, when you see JME on French antiques, it isn’t a maker’s mark!

Check The Joinery

All antique furniture was crafted by hand, and although it looks perfect, there are telltale signs that give a final clue to its authenticity. Genuine antiques have slight differences, while exact symmetry clearly indicates that the item is machine-made.

For example, handmade dovetails are uneven. You’ll find only a few dovetails on antique furniture, whereas several precisely cut dovetails that are closely spaced are a sign of modern machine-cut furniture.

Check the sides and bottom of a draw to see if the wood shows nicks and dips made by planes or spokeshaves. Machine-made furniture will be smooth and flat, with no imperfections.

Examine other small diameter components, as these should not be uniform. If you examine the parts carefully, you’ll see that they are not identical. The same components in a modern piece of furniture will be exactly the same.

Also, look out for arc-shaped marks on the base. If the wood shows circular shapes or anything that looks like an arc, it was cut using a circular saw, which only came into use in 1860. If you detect straight saw marks, it’s a good sign that the piece is of an earlier date.

Look At The Finish

Before 1860, most good quality furniture had a shellac finish as it was the only clear surface finish available. Very old pieces may have been coated with milk paint, wax, or oil. After 1860, antique furniture makers also used a lacquer or varnish finish.

Antique furniture can become caked in wax and dirt, which can be cleaned using a mix of white vinegar, kerosene and denatured alcohol. Once cleaned, test a small area by rubbing on neat denatured alcohol. If it is shellac, it will dissolve. Painted pieces can be tested using ammonia, which reacts with milk paint.

This isn’t often practical in the dealer’s showroom, but it’s best to do this before buying if possible.

What Type Of Wood Is It?

Very early furniture was almost always made from oak, right up until the 1700s. After this time, more exotic woods like mahogany and walnut became available, rapidly gaining popularity.

Pine was favoured in America for many years because of its versatility and abundance, though good quality furniture might be of mahogany, cherry, walnut, maple, or oak.

Identify Antique Furniture By Style

It’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with different furniture styles and the dates they cover.

Here’s a basic guide with dates, key names and styles to help you:

English Furniture Styles

Queen Anne – 1701 to 1714

  • English Baroque
  • Graceful curves
  • Curved ‘cabriole’ legs
  • Claw-and-ball feet
  • Scallop shell or scroll motifs
  • Oak
  • Cherry
  • Walnut
  • Mahogany

Georgian Styles – 1714 to 1830 (styles changed radically during this time)

  • Thomas Chippendale
  • Thomas Sheraton
  • Carved decoration, gradually replaced by wood inlay
  • Baroque
  • Palladian
  • Ornate carvings
  • Walnut and walnut veneers on oak
  • Jappaning (an imitation of Japanese lacquer work)
  • Rococo
  • Gothic
  • Rich upholstery
  • Robert Adam
  • Rosewood and satinwood veneer
  • Empire style
  • Classical motifs

Regency – 1795 to 1837

  • Bold curves
  • Functional
  • Simple
  • Mahogany
  • John Nash
  • Neoclassical motifs
  • Far-Eastern influences

Victorian – approximately 1830 to 1890

  • Marble tops
  • Bulky design
  • Dark finish
  • Pugin
  • Greek influences
  • Gothic
  • Rococo
  • Art Nouveau (very early)

American furniture styles

American Colonial Styles – Early 1620 to 1730 Late 1730 to 1780

  • Heavy decoration
  • Pine
  • Walnut
  • Birch Maple
  • Windsor chair
  • Interpretations of English styles (Queen Anne and Georgian)with square lines

Federal – 1789 to 1823

  • Duncan Phyfe variations on the Sheraton style
  • Boston Rocker
  • Hitchcock chair
  • Cherry
  • Mahogony
  • French influence

Pennsylvania Dutch – 1720 to 1830

  • Plain and solid furniture
  • Germanic style
  • Painted furniture
  • Pine
  • Maple
  • Fruitwoods widely used
  • Walnut

Shaker – late 1800s to early 1900s

  • Mostly maple and pine
  • Strictly functional with no decoration
  • Excellent craftsmanship
  • Highly original designs

Examples Of Antique Furniture Maker’s Marks

It would be impossible to include a complete list of maker’s marks as there are thousands. We’ve listed some of the best British and French furniture makers to look out for:

Gillows of Lancaster. Founded in 1731, one of the era’s top furniture makers. During the 1740s, they imported mahogany for their furniture, opening a workshop in London in 1764. They allied with Waring of Liverpool in 1897 and merged to become Waring & Gillow in 1903.

John Taylor & Son. One of the most prestigious cabinet makers of Victorian times, established in 1825, they became ‘cabinet makers to the Queen’.

Wilkinson & Son. The Wilkinson workshop was established in the City of London in 1766. After several relocations (Ludgate Hill, Bond Street, and Welbeck Street), they were acquired by Marshall & Snellgrove in 1918.

Howard & Sons. Regarded as one of the foremost upholstered chair-makers of the Victorian era, Howard & Sons supplied furniture for the royal family from their base in London on several occasions.

Druce & Co. Established around 1853, Druce & Co. crafted, restored and upholstered quality furniture from its base on Baker Street, London. Sadly, the building was destroyed in WWII, and the business was closed down.

Martin Carlin. A renowned Parisian Master Ébéniste (from the wood, Ebony), M. Carlin (1730 – 1785) crafted luxury furniture, often mounted with Sévres porcelain.

Adam Weisweiler. Another prominent name in French antiques, Weisweiler’s work dated between 1778 and around 1810 when he retired. His most exquisite works include Japanese lacquer or Sévres porcelain panels and gilt bronze.

The Globe-Wernicke Co. Ltd. Established in 1899, Globe-Wernicke became famous for its office furniture, including barrister’s bookcases. Made from oak, mahogany, and walnut, these shelves were of a standard size and fitted together easily. This company had workshops in the UK, US, Canada, Germany and France.

Roger Vandercruse Lacroix. Often described as one of the best ébéniste of his time, Roger Vandercruse (1728 – 1799) was part of a network of fine craftsmen in Paris. His work is sometimes stamped, Lacroix, R. Lacroix, or RVLC.

Hampton & Sons. William Hampton opened his first shop in Cranbourn Street, London, in 1830, moving to Pall Mall in 1869. They had the honour of furnishing prestige properties and boats, such as the Mayfair Hotel, Theatre Royal, the Queen Mary, and the Royal Yacht Britannia.

Jean-Henri Riesner. Although an ébéniste working in Paris, Reisner (1704 – 1806) was German. He is considered the finest Parisian ébéniste of the Louis XVI era, supplying furniture to French royalty and aristocracy.

Harrison & Son of Burnley. Although they crafted high-quality bedroom and library furniture in the late Victorian era, there is surprisingly little information about them. Nevertheless, each item is expertly made and well-worth owning.

Heals of London. Established in 1810 by John Harris Heal, they initially produced bedding. By 1840, the company started making bedroom furniture, noted for using mahogany with rounded corners. Ambrose Heal took the company to new heights in 1893 by introducing Arts & Crafts and Art Deco designs.

James Shoolbred & Co. Originally set up as a draper’s shop in Tottenham Court Road in 1820, Shoolbred began producing its own range of quality furniture in 1860 and was awarded a Royal warrant in the 1880s.

J Kendall & Co. Operating between 1783 and 1840, this Leeds based company produced furniture equal to that of Gillows. Although they mostly used mahogany and oak, some of their best pieces were made from solid rosewood.

Lambs of Manchester. James Lamb earned great respect as the premier cabinet maker of the Yorkshire and Lancashire regions in the Victorian period. Lambs dominated the world of high-class furnishing for 50 years.

Miles & Edwards. From 1822 to 1844, Henry MIles and John Edwards produced high-quality pieces for various VIP clients, including the Empress of Russia. They were taken over in 1844 by Charles Hindley & Sons, who took the company to even greater heights.

Morison & Co. Established in 1808, Morison & Co. was among the best cabinet makers in Scotland. Although bought by W Turner Lord & Co. in 1902, they used the Morison name for many years.

Shapland & Petter. Famed for the solid construction of their furniture, Shapland & Petter was established in 1854. Inspired by American methods, Henry Shapland introduced machinery to speed up production, although they still used traditional finishing. Furniture was designed, constructed, carved and French polished at their workshop in Barnstaple, Devon.

Harris Lebus. Towards the end of the Victorian era, Harris Lebus was known for its high-end furniture, produced at the East End workshop. By 1901, they opened a 14-acre site in Tottenham, which soon tripled in size to become the largest factory of its kind in the world. Note: the majority of Lebus furniture isn’t marked!

Holland & Sons. In 1803, they were initially called Taprelland Holland but changed the name in 1843. They are known for their fine craftsmanship and became cabinetmakers to Queen Victoria.

James Winter & Sons. Trading between 1823 and 1870, James Winter produced some beautiful items at their Soho workshop. The founder was an appraiser, dealer, cabinet maker, and undertaker who also restored antique and second-hand furniture.

Johnstone & Jeanes. John Johnstone oversaw the production of exceptional furniture from the Bond Street workshop for almost forty years, from 1842 to 1880.

Maple & Co. John Maple, a Surrey shopkeeper, set up a furniture shop in Tottenham Court Road, London, in 1841. His son, also called John, transformed the company into one of the biggest, most successful cabinet makers of its time. They specialised in updating older designs with precision and craftsmanship.

Wylie & Lochhead. Starting in 1829 as coffin makers, this company soon began producing high-quality wardrobes, dining tables and chairs with a high degree of craftsmanship.

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