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posted: 10/19/2013 5:51 AM

Everything's coming up rosewood — or is it?

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  • This china cabinet may seem to have the style of an antique to many, but what is its real age?

    This china cabinet may seem to have the style of an antique to many, but what is its real age?
    SHNS photo courtesy Joe Rosson and Helaine Fendelm

By Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson

Q. This cabinet was purchased from an antiques dealer when we lived north of Niagara Falls in Lewiston, N.Y. The cabinet is made from rosewood and is 53 inches wide, 15 inches deep and 81 inches tall. The seller gave me no provenance on the piece. The glass in the doors is original except for one small piece and has small bubbles and ripples in it. The carving on the corners appears to represent acanthus leaves and pineapples. Could you please give me some idea of this cabinet's age, origin and possible value?

A. When someone says that a piece of furniture has glass in its doors that has "bubbles and ripples," we tend to assume that the item dates to the first half of the 19th century -- or earlier. Unfortunately, this does not appear to be the case with this china cabinet.

And when it is suggested that the wood in a piece of furniture is "rosewood," we tend to assume that if the piece is American, its time of manufacture is probably mid-19th century. But if it is Chinese or East Indian, the date could be anytime from the Ming Dynasty to the 20th century.

The term "rosewood" is applied to wood taken from a variety of different trees, but mainly ones from South America, Asia and Madagascar.

Looking at the excellent photographs supplied by the reader, we think the wood looks more like mahogany than rosewood -- but digital photographs can be deceiving. The question of the materials from which this piece was made is not nearly as important as the question of how old this piece happens to be.

To us, the piece appears to be rather ponderous -- thick and blocky -- and the carving not well-done. The "pineapple" (typically a symbol of hospitality and warm welcome), which the letter writer mentions, looks something like a hand grenade and the acanthus leaves are rather simplistically done.

The acanthus is native to the Mediterranean region. Its leaves symbolize immortality (or long life) and resurrection, but the carvings of these leaves often do not resemble the real thing.

The feet on this piece are "ball and claw," which is generally associated with the English Georgian and Chippendale styles of furniture, and the cabinet has a "bat wing" apron that stretches between the two front legs.

This is a charming piece, but we have serious questions about its age.

We believe it is English Edwardian at best (1901-1910), and decades later otherwise. If Edwardian, this rather handsome cabinet is worth $1,400 to $1,800 for insurance replacement purposes. If it is later, the value drops significantly, to perhaps half that.

• Contact Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson at Treasures in Your Attic, P.O. Box 18350, Knoxville, TN 37928.

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