Patina is something we talk about a lot when it comes to antiques, but it can be hard to put into words. You know when a piece’s patina is just because you want to touch it! I’m talking about Old English Oak which has been used and polished for hundreds of years which has given the wood such depth of color and shine.

Imagine an old farmhouse table with a thick rubbed top that has been in a kitchen for years and one end has been used to prepare food and all the hash has had marks on the surface. Some may say it’s damaged or flawed, but to me it shows its history and gives it character.

Sometimes patina can also be used to describe layers of original paint or stain that have accumulated and worn away perfectly where an item has been touched or used, such as the seat of a chair or at the ends of arms.

Patina is the one thing that cannot be reproduced or duplicated. It builds over years of use (and sometimes abuse!) and takes time to build up. A good patina can add a lot of value and desirability to a piece. We must be very careful when restoring objects in our workshop that we preserve the patina. A bad or hasty restoration or excessive cleaning can erase this history and end up devaluing a piece!

The Victorian dresser pictured is another example of the fabulous patina provided by the beautiful flamed mahogany drawer fronts. “Flame” describes the particular grain of this mahogany cut and this striking flame-like figure is produced by cutting the wood where a branch meets the trunk. There are only small amounts of large branches on any tree trunk, so this cut was rare and sought after by top woodworkers. It also has a rich, deep color only found on aged mahogany.

In the mid-1800s when this dresser was made, most exotic woods such as mahogany were imported by sea directly from places like Cuba, Africa, and the West Indies. It was introduced to ports such as Liverpool and from there the best cabinet makers of the time would have first choice of timbers. They were able to choose the richest, best colored and thickest wood to use in making their furniture. The rest of the wood would then be taken to London workshops, with the poorer quality going to regional craftsmen. So the rich color and beautiful grain of this dresser not only makes it look great, but it’s also a sign of superior cabinetry.

We think the dresser is most likely Scottish due to its scale and the architectural columns flanking the drawers. In addition to the beautiful flamed mahogany drawer fronts, it also has an unusual drawer configuration. The three deep drawers would originally have been used to store hats – imagine that! It even has a concealed drawer in the base of the pedestal.

If there is anything you would like to know more about or have any questions you would like answered, remember you can email me: [email protected]