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Antique furniture wood: an antique dealer’s guide

Antique furniture wood: an antique dealer’s guide


From the mahogany pieces so beloved in the Georgian era, to the clean, teak lines of mid-century furniture, period furniture is made from a variety of woods. Here, we look at the most popular.

At Hemswell Antique Centres, we are home to many dealers of fine period furniture, with pieces available online and our premises. Different types of wood lend themselves to certain pieces of furniture but here is a selection of the most popular.

Pine furniture

One of the few softwoods used for furniture making, pine and pitch pine have always been popular in the manufacture of country furniture. Varying in colour from a pale, yellowish-white to a reddish-brown with warm orange tones, pine will darken with age. Browse our pine furniture online to find a good selection of pine tables, pine cupboards, and much more.

Oak furniture

A durable hardwood, oak is a pale wood which darkens to a deep, rich brown over time. Oak furniture is heavy and extremely robust and was popular throughout the Arts and Crafts period. Oak features an attractive grain which can be enhanced by the way the wood is cut, for example quarter-swan oak has a tighter grain pattern with dramatic flecking.

Mahogany furniture

An exotic wood hailing from the West Indies and South America, mahogany was popular in European furniture making and was often used for dining tables and dressers. With a deep, dark brown to red colour, mahogany furniture was popular in the UK during the 18th century. It can be sanded easily and can be glued and stained well, adding to its popularity as a veneer.

Walnut furniture

An unusual wood in that it can be found in a host of colours (black, brown, and white are not uncommon), walnut varies from most other woods as it becomes lighter with age. Antique walnut furniture therefore can be yellow-brown in colour. Burr walnut is a particular type of walnut formed from a growth on a tree where the grain has developed knotty whorls. Burr walnut is unmistakeable with its dark streaks and knots and was a popular veneer for cabinets in the 17th century.

Teak furniture

Native to Southern Asia, teak has a lovely golden brown colour and features a generally straight grain. A favourite with Victorian campaign furniture makers, teak became popular again with manufacturers of 20th century furniture, such as Ercol and G Plan, valuing it highly. Exceptionally strong and durable, teak is resistant to splitting and cracking and will not succumb to insect infestation.

Rosewood furniture

It is important here to mention rosewood following on from the confusion surrounding whether you can buy and sell rosewood items.

Named for the scent this wood gives of when cut, rosewood can resemble mahogany but it is much heavier, with a black grain. The mainstay of the Brazilian industry, where it was used mainly for veneers, rosewood is also found in India, where it was used for furniture.

Over exploitation of forests led to rosewood being protected in 2021 by CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). Essentially this now means that any rosewood products manufactured prior to 1947 can be traded freely in and out of the UK.

Items manufactured after 1947 must come with an Article 10 Certificate, or CITES certificate, which the seller must apply for. A CITES certificate is a TSC (Transaction Specific Certificate) which means it can only be used in one transaction. So, if you buy a piece of post-1947 rosewood furniture with a CITES certificate, you must obtain another certificate if you wish to sell it on and move it into or out of the country.

Buying rosewood items from reputable dealers gives you the piece of mind that you will not be in breach of any of these restrictions.   

Period furniture from Hemswell Antique Centres

Whatever wood you prefer, quality period furniture will always hold its value and the Hemswell dealers have beautiful pieces for you to browse. For those unable to visit us in person, we have over a thousand pieces of furniture period online, featuring every type of wood you can imagine. Or, if pine is your preferred look, why not browse our pine furniture online?

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