Buying an original item of painting can be really expensive, especially if you are planning to purchase the work of an already established artist. Moreover, there is always the risk of buying a fake and the bigger the amount of money involved in the transaction, the higher the risk. If you have an eye for art, you already know how to stay away from printed cheap copies. However, the art of forgery has reached such levels of sophistication that you sometimes have to really be an expert in order to spot counterfeited paintings. If you are not an expert yet, and still want to make a first evaluation of the painting you want to buy yourself, here are some tips that will help you stay safe – at least safer than if you didn’t know them:
Try to learn as much as possible about the painting and the artist
Information is power. You have already heard this a thousand times, right? Well, in most cases this proverb proves its real value as it always pays to be informed. Prior to making any purchase decision, try to find out as much as you can about the painting and its creator. What’s that piece of art’s history? What is the artist’s style? When was that painting created? Is there anything special about the painter’s technique? These are just few of the questions you might want to ask yourself and find answers for before buying a painting.
Visit some museums
Taking a tour of the local museums can never be a bad idea. Check what art museums you can find in your area, even take a short trip if necessary and study some patinas. Talk to the museum assistants and they will for sure be glad to provide you with some useful insights into the different ways to check the authenticity of a painting. Learning all sorts of things about the respective work of art, its creator and the artistic trend it belongs to will pay off not only for authenticity checking purposes, but also for your general knowledge as an art lover.
Look for anachronisms
Although forgers have improved their techniques a great deal during the latest decades, they still make mistakes that should make you look further and investigate the respective painting’s authenticity. For instance, if you see that the canvas is stapled on the side of a painting dating from the 18th century, you should consider this a warning sign. The frame’s fitting is also an aspect to look into when analyzing a painting. Are there any bristles on the canvas’ surface? You should know that forgers don’t use high quality raw materials and their brushes often leave traces on the painting that are rather easy to detect even by a non expert eye. Look into the artist’s signature! Compare it to the signature featuring other works of art created by the same person. This is a distinctive sign that differentiates a genuine painting from a fake one.
Despite the producers’ effervescent campaigns, a lot of consumers are looking, online and offline, for counterfeit watches to buy for themselves or for their close ones. It is proven by the searched people make online as well as by the success of the virtual and brick and mortar stores operating in this luxury manufacturing and trade field.
Why do people buy replica watches? This question has a series of answers. One of the main reasons is the price. People like luxury goods, but they don’t always have the necessary budget to buy the real thing. For how long has a high tech employee with an above the average wage have to save in order to afford a Rolex or a Patek Philip? Anyone is tempted when walking by market stalls displaying sparkling replica watches at bargain prices.
Whether you are a luxury watches afficcionado or not, you are certainly aware of the message a Rolex brand on your wrist sends to the people around you, especially when it is someone you are meeting for the first time and you want to impress. But, are you willing to resort to a fake time piece in order to create the image you would want to? Isn’t this a bit tricky? Let’s look into the disadvantages of buying a counterfeit watch:
1. Almost anyone can spot a fake. Who are you fooling? Maybe just yourself, thinking that you succeeded to achieve the desired effect without spending a fortune.
2. A cheap product looks fake. Instead of looking sharp and classy, you will look just fake. Is this what you were going for? When buying a luxury looking product, you want to go for a sharp and fancy outfit, not for a cheap one.
3. Counterfeit watches don’t come with a quality warranty. If the second day after purchasing your wonder product, you realize it was not such a great deal as it is always minutes late, it does not close well, or who knows what, there is nothing you can do.
4. Buying a counterfeit watch, and any other forged product for that matter, you are encouraging this underground industry that does not pay taxes and does not contribute to the economy’s evolution.
Now that you are convinced you are going to stay away from counterfeit watches, the only question that remain is how to spot them. Here are a few tips that will help you detect forged timepieces and make safer purchases.
The first indicator should be the price. If your Rolex costs $30, it certainly is fake and a cheap one as there is no such thing as a Rolex for $30. While you may sometimes find better prices, it is never for a limited series model, and they never go as low as $30.
The movement of the hand
Another way of spotting a fake watch is to take a look at how the seconds hand slides. If it has a smooth movement, you are dealing with the real thing. If, on the contrary, it stutters, you are faced with a counterfeited product.
The date display
Original timepieces equipped with a magnifying aperture usually display the date with sizeable figures so that the owner and wearer can read it easily, just by a move of the hand. This is not always the case when dealing with replica watches. The figures are small and the reading is rather difficult.
The inner workings
Luxury watches are created with a lot of time and creative work investment. Their components are usually hand made and everything is almost perfect about them. Take a look at the inner workings of the watch you are planning to buy. If there are clear indications of what each small piece is and how it can be distinguished from the others, you are most certainly dealing with an original timepiece. Forgers don’t take the trouble of going into so much details and of perfecting their work so much.
Where are you looking for an original luxury watch? In your local market? In an exclusivist shopping mall? On eBay? On the official website? Shopping in a safe location solves half of the issue. Although you might not find great discounts, buying your luxury timepiece from an official dealer instead of the trader advertising his products at street corner is the safest way to go. This does not say that you are 100% risk free when looking for a Rolex in a shopping mall. Forgers get to the places you would least expect them to. However, when there is a legitimate shop, there is usually a legitimate paper trail and a warranty for the product that is on sale.
A bag can be a valuable accessory that makes your entire outfit look sharp and elegant, and women who like staying updated with fashion trends know all about it. This is why designer bags are some of the most looked for items within clothing and fashion industry. But, can we all afford to buy brand names? Shirts and trousers, skirts and dresses, earrings and necklaces… if we have to buy all of them from designer flag stores, our wardrobe will cost a fortune.
So, what is the solution? We look around, in brick and mortar shops, at street corners, in the markets, on the internet, and we find cheaper products that seem to be just the same thing. But is it really the same thing? Are we buying the same Dolce & Gabbana bag only at a discounted price? The answer is negative.
You might be asking yourself then: how can I know it? How can I make the difference between a genuine designer purses and replica bags? Here are a few things you should take a good look at when shopping for handbags:
Did you really think you can buy a designer bag for $100? A Prada or Hermes product is never so cheap. Furla bags don’t go under the $300 limit. Instead of getting ripped off and paying $100 for a $20 bag, better look elsewhere and either buy a regular product that is sold for what it really is at the price it really costs.
There is nothing wrong with buying cheaper products if you are on a budget and you would rather have different models and different colors of bags. As long as you are aware that you are not buying a high quality product, it is up to you to pick the kind of items you fancy for your wardrobe and outfits.
One of the first indications you are about to make a wrong shopping decision is the product’s label. Check the spelling! Is this bag a Louis Vuitton or a Luis Vuiton? Are you going to pay for a Dolce & Gabbana or for a Dolce & Cabanna? This small trick has been used for ages and continues to deceive consumers looking for designer goods at bargain prices. Even if you think it might go, it is certain you won’t full too many people with a misspelled brand name.
The stitching and the charms
Before you actually take the money out of your pocket, take a close look at how the stitching and charms are set into place. Designer bags rhyme with quality and the stitching will always look neat. The charms will always be made of a good looking material that achieves the desired effect. A shinny letter, a purposely vintage looking charm… they will never look as well as on the real model when dealing with a counterfeited bag.
How to make sure you are not buying a counterfeited bag
Follow the above mentioned signs to check if the product you are planning to buy is genuine. If you are shopping in brick and mortar shops, things are easier as you can feel the product and analyze it visually. If you found this bag on the internet, on eBay or a different website, ask the seller to provide you with several pictures so that you can analyze the product properly. In case of a refusal, it is advisable you take your business elsewhere! Either he/she does not have the product, or he/she is aware it’s a fake and does not want to provide more details for fear of being spotted.
The budget you have for buying the bag is your on business. However, you should think twice before spending it all on a counterfeit product. Not only you will pay more for a really cheap bag, but this way you also help underground industry, child labor and illegal trade flourish. Another aspect you should consider is that copying the design of a bag or any other item of clothing for that matter is illegal. Fashion designers invest time and resource into creating trendy models, and those who counterfeit these models are, in fact, stealing the result of their work and creative genius.
Despite the pressure society puts on us to follow fashion trends, you should reconsider your decision of purchasing a fake both for quality and for moral reasons, not to mention the legality of that acquisition. Counterfeited bags do not come with quality assurance, and you can end up with a useless product or even with a health issue like an allergy from the cheap paint used to fake the original. Better invest in a simpler bag that goes with many outfits than buy several cheap forged ones.
The term art counterfeiting refers to a set of techniques and practices meant to replicate a famous and valuable work of art in order to deceive buyers and sell it at a high price as if it was the real thing. The origins of art forging go back a long time. This business actually started almost at the same time with art. As soon as pieces of art began being appreciated and sold for impressive prices, forgers started imitating them in order to earn money.
With time, analysis techniques have also developed. Therefore, auditors, buyers and collectors have nowadays the tools to evaluate the real value of an art piece, to detect frauds and to make a lot safer purchases than in the past. While some counterfeit art items are visible to the naked eye, the most masterfully forged cannot be spotted without the help of a specialist, and of course, of modern technology.
Methods of detecting counterfeit art
Three main methods are currently used to detect counterfeited art pieces.
Morellian analysis is the most commonly used detection technique. It consists of examining the obvious signs of authenticity such as the artistic method, the paper trail, the frames, and the signature.
Forensic authentication is another way of understanding whether a work of art is genuine or not. This is actually a set of techniques, including:
- carbon dating for establishing the age of an item that is more than 10 thousand years old;
- white lead for works of art that are less than 2000 years old;
- X-ray with art pieces of a more recent origin.
A famous case in which forensic authentication is that of the painting Portrait of a Woman, long believed to belong to the Spanish painter Francisco de Goya. Art specialists used X-ray analysis techniques to evaluate the painting, just to discover that it contained zinc white paint, which did not exist in the painter’s time.
Digital authentication refers to the use digital images to decompose a painting into several pieces in order to assess their value by analyzing the texture and the strokes used to create it. This method helped detect a series of forgeries impossible to spot with previously used techniques.
With such great method of detection, art forgery was forced to reach a higher level of perfection. Some of the intended forged items are so close to art that they became the subject of research studies and they make even the topic of a museum of their own. Vienna’s Museum of Art Fakes opened its doors in 2005, and has become one of the city’s main attractions. Here you can admire some of the world’s best known counterfeit art works signed by names like Han van Meergeren, Tom Keating and Konrad Kujau. Besides learning a lot of interesting bits about the art of counterfeiting, you can also get informed on the lives of the world’s most famous forgers and find out how they succeeded to deceive the experts of their times.
Fashion is an important part of nowadays’ society. More and more people want to be updated with the always changing trends and consumers are, more than ever, on the look for brand names, be it about clothes, watches, jewelry or other accessories. If you want to buy designer clothing, but you are looking for a bargain price, there is an important aspect you should take into consideration, and this is the forged products.
If a piece of clothing features a designer’s brand tag, this does not guarantee that the product is actually genuine. Counterfeit designer clothing flood the market and the consumers don’t always have the tools to detect them. Unless you are shopping in the offline flag stores, you are basically on your own when it comes to spotting counterfeit designer clothes, and this is not always an easy job.
You will understand, of course, in time that the shirt you bought as Versace is not a real Versace since its colors went out on the first wash, its edge tore right on your first wear, the buttons went off, or the zipper broke. But isn’t that a bit too late? Remember, you cannot return a forged good! This kind of shopping does not come with a warranty tag attached, and this is one of the things that should make you take a second and reflect upon your purchase decision.
So, how can you tell if a dress, a pair of trousers or a shirt is a fake?
The first thing to look at and also the most important is the fabric. Counterfeit clothes are made of cheap materials that simply don’t feel like the real thing. If you are unsure about how a genuine designer piece of clothing should feel like, the best thing to do is to visit one of these shops. Simply take a look around, touch them to get an idea of how the fabric should feel under your fingers.
Another sign that helps you spot out a fake shirt or pair of trousers is the label’s stitching. Look how the label is sown on the product. Real designer clothes don’t reveal the label’s stitching on the other side. Most counterfeit pieces don’t have carefully placed labels. The same goes for the buttons. Most of them feature a brand stamp. If they don’t, you should analyze that piece into more details.
Another way of being safe, though, is staying away from the big names, especially when you find them at suspiciously low prices. You cannot really believe that you can buy a Prada for a few dollars. Diesel jeans come with a price tag, they cannot be as cheap as advertised on the market stalls. Moreover, the genuine designer clothes are not sold at street corner. Don’t be as naive as to believe the sellers’ story. If they are as dishonest as to sell fakes, they will not be struck by honesty to tell you that you are investing in a counterfeited product.
Counterfeit money exists even before the first coins were minted. Native Americans, for instance, used blue dark shells as coins, and forgers found a way of producing cheap and easier to find replicas. As technology evolved, counterfeiters became more and more skillful, succeeding to flush the market with fake coins and notes, and forcing governments to improve their coinage techniques and develop special security features that would make money forging more difficult.
However, no government succeeded to stop this phenomenon, and counterfeit money is still a reality we all have to be aware of. Therefore, here are some tips that will help you spot fake dollar and euro notes (the most widely used currencies in the world):
Euro banknotes include a series of security features that should help you detect any fake bill you might encounter. Here are some of the easiest to spot:
- The watermark – visible only when the note is held up to a light.
- The security thread – a dark line embedded in the texture and displaying the word „euro” and the value of the note.
- The see-through register – the figure representing the value of the note made of irregular shapes and located in upper left corner of the note.
- The hologram stripe – visible only on 5, 10 and 20 euro banknotes.
- The hologram patch – features only 50, 100, 200 and 500 euro banknotes.
- The glossy stripe – used only on 5, 10 and 20 euro bank notes.
- The color-shifting ink – present only on 50, 100, 200 and 500 euro banknotes.
- The paper – actually cotton fiber, not really paper.
- The raised print – the abbreviated form of the European Central Bank in the different European languages printed using the intaglio technique.
An always evolving technique that made the foundation of US Secret Services back in the day, making dollar bills more difficult to forge and detecting the fake one is based on the following elements:
- The portrait – its color should not be identical to the bill’s background.
- Federal Reserve and Treasury seals – its ink color should be the same as the one used for the serial number.
- The border of the bill’s design mustn’t be blurry.
- The serial numbers are aligned and uniformly spaced on a real dollar bill.
- The paper has embedded reddish and bluish fibers that are difficult to replicate.
- The raised texture of the bill
- The watermark – visible when the bill is held against light and its portrait should be the same as the one printed on the bill.
Despite the efforts made by the US Secret Services as well as by the European authorities, counterfeit money is still in circulation in large quantities. Some of it is detected with the population’s help. This makes knowing which security features to look for worthwhile, not to mention the personal benefit of not being in the possession of a fake dollar or euro bill.
According to countless analysts warning against this dangerous phenomenon, the global economy loses huge amounts of money as a result counterfeiting activities. Despite the losses and the ceaseless efforts put into shutting these underground activities down, only a small part of counterfeiters are actually detected and the vast majority of counterfeited goods are still on the market. If the reasons behind counterfeiting are obvious, some might ask themselves which are the preferred products.
1. Leather goods
Economic studies show that leather goods like bags, belts and wallets make 40% of the total when it comes to counterfeited products. With fashion trends changing at such a rapid pace, consumers find it difficult to keep up with them. Willing to remain trendy, but faced with a financial challenge, the solution comes in handy: buying similar products that look like the original, but don’t cost a fortune. This way anyone can afford a Louis Vuitton, Dolce & Gabana or a Dior bag.
Being trendy also means wearing the appropriate accessories. This is why watches and jewelry represent the second largest category of counterfeited goods, amounting up to 10% of the total. Among watches, Rolex seem to be the counterfeiters’ as well as the buyers’ favorite. When talking jewelry, the array is a lot more varied. Seeing counterfeited jewelry pieces on local fairs’ stalls does not surprize anyone. However, it seems that the preferred way of selling fake earrings, necklaces and bracelets are well known auction sites like eBay. The latter actually won a lawsuit intended by Tiffany & Co. on this very subject.
3. Clothes and shoes
Counterfeiting goods seem to be all about fashion as the third category of such products refers to clothes and shoes. Brand names like Nike, Dolce & Gabana and Chanel can be seen on display in the most trivial places at ridiculous prices. Despite their obvious interest in trends and appearance, consumers switch very easily to fake products when the price is attractive.
A slightly different category than the above mentioned manufactured goods, media products are digital counterfeiters’ beloved target. Despite always more severe copyright infringement laws and penalties, movies and songs continue to be copied and sold illegally, be it on market stalls, at street corners, in shops and via the internet.
5. Pharmaceuticals and beauty products
Despite the obvious health risk involved and the numerous campaigns on this topic, people continue to buy (even knowingly) counterfeited drugs and cosmetic products. The main categories when it comes to pharmaceuticals are especially weight loss and herbal mixtures, which usually come with promises of immediate and miraculous effects.
Computers and IT accessories, mobile phones and other types of such gadgets and devices, toys and electronic games are also on the list of most counterfeited products. The main countries these fake goods come from are China and India, but Singapore is also on top when it comes to jewelry and Thailand is an aggressive competitor in the field textile products.
The concept of counterfeiting can be traced to ancient times, and it evolved together with the history of mankind. Counterfeiting actually appeared the very moment people started manufacturing and trading goods, developing, extending its territory and improving its techniques. The more the manufactured products evolved and the more complex they became, the more sophisticated the counterfeiters had to become.
A step behind, the war against forging started centuries afterwards, when the impact of counterfeiting upon economy became obvious. If in antiquity the best way of stopping forgers from copying a product was keeping it hidden, nowadays we have laws that protect trademark, patents and intellectual property. However, this hasn’t succeeded to put a stop to the counterfeiting activities and the whole industry surrounding them.
Counterfeiting in Ancient Rome and Ancient Greece
Counterfeiting money was a wide spread phenomenon in the early days of the Roman Empire, as well as in Ancient Greece. In Diocletian’s time, for instance, the high inflation rate resulted in drastic coinage changes that consisted in reducing the amount of precious metal the coins contained. Initially made entirely of silver, the denarius had only 1% silver in its composition.
Studies have shown that the first cases of forging currency appeared in Ancient Greece, and they happened almost at the same time with the minting of the first coins in the Greek province of Lydia. The reputed fourrée was born in Ancient Greece as a a form of forging the Greek drachma by replacing the silver coin with a plated one.
Paradoxically, the practice of counterfeiting had positive consequences for the Roman economy. As the state had no rules regarding this matter, and no pricey metals were necessary to manufacture fake coins, counterfeiters flourished. A high amount of counterfeited coins looking very similar to the real ones entered the circulation, thus helping the economy recover.
But coins were not the only goods that made the subject of counterfeiting. Wine was an important product within Roman culture and the Greek wine was a lot more appreciated, therefore more expensive than the locally produces one. Although common practices required bottles of wine to have quality guaranteeing stamps on their corks, counterfeiters found a way to reproduce them.
Counterfeiting in the Middle Ages
The counterfeiting phenomenon was a true impediment that manufacturers and traders had to deal with in medieval times as there was no legal frame for what we know nowadays as patents, trademarks and intellectual property. This kind of laws first appeared in the 14th century in Italy, and spread to other European countries during the following two centuries. The most frequently counterfeited products in the Middle Ages were textiles, household objects and tools, and weapons.
The art of forging was at such a high level during this historical period that consumers feared purchasing durable goods, preferring the cheaper ones. For instance, recent research studies have shown that most of the pottery manufactured in Europe in medieval times was counterfeited.
Counterfeiting in America’s Early Days
The New World was affected by this bane from the times of the first English settlements, even before the first American currency was minted. The coins used by some of the Native American tribes consisted of dark colored shells called wampum. Forgers had the idea of dyeing ordinary white shells, pebbles and other objects in order to make them look like the ones used as currency.
Favored by the wide range of circulating coins on the American territory, counterfeiting became a wide spread phenomena in the 18th century. Forging currency became even easier with banknotes, and the American government had to fight on two fronts: on one hand, finding solutions that would make counterfeiting more difficult, on the other hand, trying to persuade people that they can trust paper money.
The whole war against counterfeiting became more serious when the legal frame was created in the 19th century and a special institution – the US Secret Service – was founded on July 5th 1865 to this effect.
Historical proofs speak mainly about money counterfeiting, but the forging phenomenon referred also to consumers’ goods. The more technology evolved and the products became more sophisticated, the same thing happened with forging techniques. The evolution is more evident when talking about currency. The stakes being high, more and more efforts were invested into making the coins and banknotes harder to forge and easier to spot when counterfeited.
Another area in which counterfeiters thrive and manufacturers struggle to make their products more difficultly forged is that of luxury goods. Expensive watches, for instance, come with special traits and features that cannot really be copied. The same goes for designers’ clothes and jewelry, electronic devices and shoes. However, these features or their absence, remain, for their greater part, unnoticeable to the consumer’s eye.