The word vintage is often overused and sometimes associated with things that are, in fact, not vintage. So, what is considered vintage? Let's look into the origin of this word and what we can genuinely call a vintage item.
The word 'vintage' originates from the Latin, then later French variant of 'vendage,' which originally meant 'to remove grapes'. The term is primarily used in wine production to indicate the year of harvest of a produced wine. As an example, a vintage 1992 wine means that all grapes used for that particular bottle were harvested in 1992. Each production year suggests a different level of quality, depending on that specific year's harvest. Hence the word vintage has grown a more profound meaning: quality. The combination of high quality and old age became the foundation of the word 'vintage,' and this is how the word migrated from wine production to other industries such as car retail and design.
As the desire for old-is-gold is growing on the retail scene, mistakenly, the word 'vintage' is often being used to describe a product's design rather than its age. Things made in the present, reflecting the past are better described as retro, or vintage-style, then 'vintage'.
When it comes to furniture, we characterize items by their age as antique, vintage, used, and new.
But where does 'vintage' start? How old should an item be to qualify as 'vintage'?
A vintage piece was made at least 20 years ago but has not yet reached the 100-year mark to become antique. Also, some refer to pieces aged between 50 and 100 years old as 'true vintage.'
The verification of the authenticity of a vintage piece requires a bit of research. Most furniture manufacturing companies in the past, have used their distinctive label to mark their finished product. The labels changed periodically, and enthusiastic furniture historians have created plenty of reference materials for us to help identify each label and accordingly, the approximate date of manufacturing. If the piece is not marked, we have to inspect the combination of the design elements, condition, materials, and hardware types used for the production of the item. These tell-tale signs are useful guidance for the expert eye to define the age of the furniture.
The real value of a vintage item is not only its age but its superb quality of materials, and present condition. A well-preserved cabinet or armchair showcases how well it was taken care of throughout the ages while becoming a beloved piece of the household.
To understand the real worth of a vintage item we have to comprehend it's entire lifespan, from the time of manufacturing until it reaches our present homes. The quality of wood, the meticulous craftsmanship, the history, and expert restoration all add to the rich layers of the value of an exquisite authentic vintage piece.
Many products marketed today are labeled 'vintage'. We should stay vigilant while shopping and determine if the term 'vintage' refers merely to the product's style, or it is, in fact, a real vintage piece. To know what you are paying for, feel free to ask questions, and get to know the desired item better, before buying it. This way, you can wholeheartedly cherish your new purchase, and continue its history while enriching it with a part of your own.