Necessity is the mother of invention or so it is said, and in times of war technological advances are made. This is no less true for the antiques market because as prices rise the market becomes lucrative to the unscrupulous, so it is all out war against fakes and fakers. Forensic analysis and investigation techniques are being applied to antique pieces to prove provenance and originality.
On 23.05.2011 Bonhams announce a partnership with Cranfield University to help identify fakes
Bonhams are to work with Cranfield University in Bedfordshire, UK with the aim of making new technological advancements for authenticating porcelain more accessible for use in the art market.
It is widely recognised that, with the rising prices for Chinese art in particular, fakes have become more accomplished. However, so far, the scientific methods that have emerged over the last six years have yet to be widely adopted in the commercial sphere.
Cranfield have made significant investments in new laboratories and staff and are now working on ways to identify the 'trace elements' of porcelain from ever-smaller and non-invasive samples.
Antiques Trade Gazette reported on this technique of extracting and identifying 'fingerprints' from the chemical components in a ceramic object in 2005 after two teams of Australian scientists developed ways of analysing the glazes, pigments and 'paste' of antique porcelain which could indicate the date, geographic location and even the specific kiln where it was fired.
Last September, it emerged that Chinese specialist Guan Haisen had begun using a bespoke laser and spectrometer designed by the Florida-based company Ocean Optics to determine the age of works of art in the state-owned superstore Beijing Antique City.
The Bonhams/Cranfield project aims to further develop and adopt the techniques systematically for the art market by making the process less abrasive to the object and the databases for the trace elements more detailed and specific.
Chairman of Bonhams Asia Colin Sheaf said: "For decades we have sought a forensic technology which will easily and reliably address the authenticity problems generated by 30 years of relentless faking of expensive Chinese ceramics.
"Cranfield's team will now provide the specialist technology and experienced forensic scientists to carry out the analysis, and Bonhams will define the practical issues and provide access to the core data material. We will work together to establish the methodology that will give us all confidence to make robust deductions from tiny quantities of core sample. This project will be of immense benefit to both participants, and to the wider academic and commercial art market."
While some senior members of the trade remain sceptical as to whether any technological 'breakthroughs' can ever be watertight, most remain open to the possibility that these developments in forensic analysis will have a place in the market in the future.
Dogs have a chip inserted under their skin containing all their relevant details, so perhaps this will be extended to antiques pieces. May be - just may be, antiques will be "chipped" in future.
Who was it who said the life of an antique dealer is an easy cushy number.