Identifying Fine Art Flaws and Repairs: UV Light Inspection

Screen Shot 2014-12-06 at 5.16.24 PMThe number one fear of any fine art collector is to be stuck with a fake or fraudulent piece. With more and more fine art transactions taking place over the web and across the globe, buyers and sellers are both at greater risk of becoming victims of fraud. In addition to using a third party inspection service, like those services offered by our friends at WeGoLook.com, how can collectors protect themselves against potential fine art fraud? One of the most popular tools used to inspect all types of fine art is an ultraviolet light.

How Does it Work?
Ultraviolet light reacts differently with various types of materials. When used at the 365 nanometer range, ultraviolet light will either be reflected or absorbed by some types of repair agents used to cover up flaws in fine art pieces. These very bright or very dark areas on items like paintings, ceramics, porcelain, and textiles can indicate areas that may have been repaired by the current owner or at some other point in the pieces lifetime.

UV and Oil Paintings
Ideally, there should be a light blue haze that appears over the entire surface of the painting. This means that there’s an original coat of varnish present, and that the piece itself has had little to no restorative work done. While masking varnish can be used to conceal repairs and give the appearance of original varnishing, the uniformity of that more recent varnishing should be a dead giveaway. Dark blue-violet coloring can also indicate the presence of repair putty.

UV with Ceramics and Porcelain
Repaired cracks will show as bright white when examined under UV light. UV examination can be especially helpful with color glasses cracks and repairs are more easily hidden by dark colors than with clear glass.

UV and Textiles
Like ceramics and porcelain, textile repairs are easily spotted when inspected under UV light. Original threading in antique pieces will nor fluoresce under inspection the same way that newer thread will. The dyes used in more modern threads will react with an almost white light when exposed to UV rays.

UV and Stone, Carvings, or Clocks
Natural stones will also react differently under UV light based on its age. Stone like marble will fluoresce as a strong purple if it was recently carve, but show as a muddled white if it has been aged. Aged ivory while take on a yellowish tone under UV, but newer ivory will shine with an intense purple color. Repair of clocks can also be easily spotted as the faces of the clocks themselves will appear as a blinding white if they have been repaired using modern materials.

Protect & Inspect
The best way to protect yourself from fraud is to put protections in place prior to buying or selling. Online escrow services are the safest way to transmit funds between parties. Buyers are protected as funds are held safely with a neutral third party until there’s proof that the items has shipped, or has arrived for a final inspection. Sellers are also protected as funds are verified and held up front – completely removing the risk of non-payment, fraudulent checks, insufficient funds and credit card chargebacks. Buyers should also make it clear to their counter parts that they plan to have an item inspected prior to locking in payment plans. This isn’t intended as an insult to the seller, but due diligence that shouldn’t come as a surprise.

For more information about buying and selling art online see out posts about how to commission artwork over the web, protecting against fine art fraud, and five hints that you’re about to get scammed.

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