Trace Element Analysis – Foiling the fakers: Cranfield University and Bonhams

Cranfield and Bonhams have inaugurated a joint forensic science research project to bring authentication techniques into the new millennium.

The new Cranfield/Bonhams collaboration combines major advances in the ability to identify ever-smaller proportions of trace elements, with essentially non-invasive sampling, associated with identifying a coherent range of authentic objects to provide the core data.

This will be particularly useful in the field of Chinese art which has become one of the hottest sectors of the global art market in recent years, and nowhere more so than in the demand for fine antique porcelain. While prices for the finest Imperial porcelain have soared, so have the ambitions of highly accomplished fakers, seeking to infiltrate spectacular new fakes into a market feverish for top quality material. Technology exists to distinguish scientifically the genuine treasures from the fakes, but the technology normally used is over forty years old, invasive, and no longer entirely trustworthy.

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The Fakers Of Jingdezhen

A jet-setting Jingdezhen ceramics trader who spoke on condition of anonymity is a small link in an increasingly global chain of top fakers, dealers and collectors.

“This bowl I would give 85 points out of 100,” said the boss of the guarded kiln complex, holding up a reproduction Qing dynasty bowl and placing it beside a near-identical prototype — a broken original pieced together from 280-year-old blue and white shards from the reign of the Yongzheng emperor.

“The auction houses and buyers often can’t tell the difference,” he added, running his finger over the smooth glaze and telltale blue Yongzheng reign mark on the base of the bowl — the finest copy of a now discarded batch of lesser fakes which could fetch over $100,000 in the open market, he said.

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