Anatomy Of Antique Identification - Old Nails
Genuinely old nails (pre 20th century) found in antique pieces can be identified by their lack of uniformity. The older nails were furnace-forged up until the start of the 19th Century and then handmade, as a consequence they will be different in shape and size. After 1880 nails became more uniform as mass production took place (when steel works started utilising the Bessemer Furnace production method).
The Rose head nails were roundish-headed and sat proud of the timber's surface, and although round -headed (due to the nature of the nail head's construction) they left a square hole when extricated. Basically they were made from a square rod of iron, heated and then tapered at one end (often only on two sides) by the smith and the other end was flattened to create the head. The most common form was the rosehead; however, broad headed and narrow L-heads also were crafted. L-head nails were popular for fine finish work due to their more delicate head appearance.
Later mass-produced nails were formed from wire with a head attached to the other end rather than their being flattened.
Clues For Determining The Age Of A Nail
1.Check existing nails, do their holes or any markings around them seem in keeping and consistent with the current nail? If not then they are probably a later addition, which in itself may not necessarily be a bad thing unless all of the nails are similar.
2. Over time oxidisation can take place and 'bleeding' appears around the nail. Red / brown discolouration around the nails tend to show that a more modern nail is in place- black discolouration shows that the nail is older due to its make up and content. However, the nail should be the same colour as the surrounding discolouration, if not then Lovejoy may have been around!
Further Research on How To Identify Antiques