A frequent enquiry we receive here at Aram Store is from customers seeking verification of what they think and hope will be a genuinely iconic piece of furniture that they are thinking about purchasing, have inherited or just stumbled across upon Ebay. But, this line of enquiry is almost always accompanied by the common misinterpretation of the term 'original' when applied to furniture design in that it should only be designated to products that were manufactured during the earliest years of their production. We believe that any product that has been produced by the legally authorised manufacturer should be considered an ‘original’, regardless of its age.
In an ideal world, the quickest and most obvious way to tell whether a particular piece of furniture has been produced by the authorised and licensed manufacturer should of course be the reputation and assurance of the seller. But, if you are not sure, there are a further series of checks you can make.
We hope the following tips on what particular features, stamps and references to look for on a selected range of prolifically copied furniture classics will help you to avoid being duped.
By Eileen Gray Worldwide Licence Holder: Aram Designs Ltd
The Eileen Gray signature stamp that appears on the inside of the outer upright tube was introduced about 8 years ago. This stamp also has a unique identification number, the words AUTHORISED BY ARAM DESIGNS LTD, and the ClassiCon logo (ClassiCon is Aram’s sub-licence holder in Germany).
There is a small protuberance that appears on the top of the handle and this as well as the curved shape of the height adjusting bracket are features that have not changed since the table was first put into production by Eileen Gray and Zeev Aram in the mid 1970s.
The frame of the authorised edition is only ever produced in chromium plated steel tube with the choice of a crystal clear glass, smoked (parsol) glass or black lacquered steel top. Prices for the authorised model with a clear glass top insert start at £585.00
By Le Corbusier, P. Jeanneret & C. Perriand Licence holder & manufacturer: Cassina Spa Ltd
Cassina has been manufacturing the authorised editions of Le Corbusier's legacy of designs since 1964 but, over time, the form of identification on these pieces has altered. Since the beginning, the frame of every model would have been stamped with just an identification number - which Cassina can still use to verify authenticity to this day - but the Le Corbusier signature was added later on for further definition.
The red ‘Maestri’ label came next.
Then at the beginning of 2010, Cassina introduced the current stamp combining all the existing motifs plus the signatures of co-designers Pierre Jeanneret and Charlotte Perriand.
This stamp can be found running along the outside of the chrome, tubular frame just behind the headrest. Prices for the authorised model with a leather seat pad and chrome frame start at £2,140.00
By Ludwig Mies van der Rohe Licence holder & manufacturer: Knoll International
The current, definitive ‘Knoll Studio’ logo and Mies van der Rohe signature stamp has only been applied to the Barcelona Chair since 1995. You will find this stamp on the outside of the right-hand rear leg but models of the Barcelona Chair produced before this date can still be identified by a few distinguishing design features that will belie a copy.
The seat and back cushions are adapted to accommodate the curved profile of the rear frame. The top of the back cushion should be aligned with the top of the frame, not sit proud, and the band of leather that surrounds the cushions should be uninterrupted i.e. without a seam of stitching on the corners.
The cushions can only be upholstered in leather and the frame is always finished in high-polished steel. Prices for an authorised model start at £4,850.00
By Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni Licence holder & manufacturer: Flos Spa
The iconic Arco Lamp, designed in 1962, has suffered a drastic amount of imitators but the original, licenced version has only ever been manufactured by Flos. The base of the lamp is composed of white Cararra marble with chamfered corners and a hole through which, for example, a broom handle can be passed to make lifting and positioning easier.
Further identification can be found on the inside of the polished aluminium, swivelling ring that surrounds the perforated diffuser where a label has been attached displaying the Flos logo.
Excluding electrical specifications and the Limited Edition run with a black marble base in 2002, the materials used in the production of the Arco Lamp have not changed since its launch 50 years ago. The price for an authorised model is £1,620.00
By Charles & Ray Eames Licence holder & manufacturer for Europe and the Middle East: Vitra
As with the Arco Lamp, the Eames Lounge Chair has spawned an immeasurable amount of pretenders but the only authorised manufacturer of Eames products for Europe and the Middle East is Vitra. Herman Miller holds the same licence for the U.S. region.
An immediate form of identification can be found on a label positioned on the underside of the seat shell denoting the Vitra logo and Charles Eames’ signature. The base is a component which, under scrutiny, will often reveal a copy as an original is five legged and neither flat to the floor nor too steeply angled.
Plus, there are only three finish options for the base: polished or chromed aluminium and the classic black sided with a polished aluminium trim.
The armrest should be curved, dropping in and just finishing shy of the seat, and you will find no visible screws or bolts in the veneered shell of an original model. Not one. Prices for an authorised model start at £3,535.00
The purchase and resale of unauthorised iconic designs in the UK is a long running and very contentious issue. The same problems do not arise in the rest of the EU where designers and consumers are more protected by copyright law. Recently, extra spice has been added to the topic of unauthorised copies with Michelle Ogundehin’s (Editor-in-Chief of Elle Decoration Magazine) campaign to highlight the hypocrisy of this double standard by using the example of Samantha Cameron (who works for Smythson) having a cheap, unauthorised copy of the Arco Lamp installed at 10 Downing Street.
Obviously, here at Aram Store, we stand very firmly alongside the ethos of investing in licenced and authentically produced pieces of furniture and our belief in this stance was summed up in a succinct quote from Daniel Aram (Managing Director) when asked for his thoughts on this issue within a relevant article in Elle Decoration Magazine a few years ago…
‘An authorised version is made by trained, dedicated craftsmen and will last a lifetime. Cheap copies don’t.’
MYLES BROWN ©