With any top designers or classic pieces, you're likely to come across copies or fakes. Some will be more convincing than others, so you need to keep a beady eye on the market and know what to look for.


We asked Salvage Hunter Drew Pritchard to run us through his top tips for spotting fakes and copies of antique classics – and explains why buying a fake or copy might not actually be a bad thing.

How to spot fake antiques

The thing with copies is that good reproductions (and bad ones) have been made throughout history. Some look fantastic and there is nothing wrong with buying or selling a copy, as long as everyone is transparent about it.

Composite stone vs carved stone

Quality composite stone works for urns, fountains and statues. Done well, it’s hard to tell a good composite piece from a carved stone example.

But, remember, there is nothing like an original, and carved stone antique pieces will always be worth 10 times that of a composite piece.

Look for patina

If you want a bargain, look for a copy with patina and age that will only get better when you leave it outside.

Finally, a note of caution. Garden antiques are the only pieces we leave outdoors, so it’s no surprise there’s a roaring trade in nicked stuff.

Get the details of provenance from the seller and mark it on the piece

Whatever you buy, keep the receipt, get the seller to write down as much detail as possible, write your name and address on the bottom in indelible pen, and photograph the piece.

For inspiration, check out our guide to how to incorporate garden antiques into your interior design.

While you're here, have a read of Drew Pritchard's other tips for buying antiques.

How to spot a fake Coalbrookdale

For every true Coalbrookdale there are around 500 or so copies on the market. Real benches have a crispness in the detail, and a depth and rigidity to the casting.

Look out for signs of moulding

Copies are made from creating moulds that are used again and again so they lose that crispness. A fake can look as if it’s slightly melted when arranged next to an original.

Check for nuts and bolts

If it looks new, it probably is. A sign is any metric nuts and bolts that hold the bench together. Early Coalbrookdales were cast rather than bolted, and an original will be made out of six or seven elements – a copy will be made of two or three.


Don't be convinced by a casting mark

Coalbrookdale pieces have a casting mark and registration diamond. However, at various times, the company changed the location of its marks. If the piece has Coalbrookdale cast into it, it doesn’t mean it is a Coalbrookdale.

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