Faked Unger Bros. BroochBy Janet Zapata
Faked Unger Bros. Brooch
A dealer (henceforth referred to as Ms. U) sent me a brooch marked Unger Bros. She had purchased it at an antique show for $200. The price for the brooch was lower than what it would normally sell for. Ms. U reasoned that since the seller's expertise was not jewelry, he probably did not know current market values.
The brooch appeared to be in good condition and was a typical image of Unger's Art Nouveau ladies with flowing hair. Ms. U noted that the same dealer had two other versions of Unger's ladies heads in the same style. As she walked around the show, she noticed several other dealers with similar pieces. When she returned home, she learned from another dealer that brooches similar to hers were sold at the same show for $40.
Separating New From Old
At first glance the brooch appears to be fine. Like original Unger Bros. Art Nouveau-styled brooches, the fake image was die stamped then backed with a sheet of silver. However, on close inspection the joint between the two pieces is visible in some sections around the edge. There are other flaws that do not appear to be the result of normal wear. Fine lines have been drawn on the surface giving the impression of age. The lines are not visible to the eye but can be seen under 10X magnification.
The only readily noticeable difference between the reproduction and an authentic piece is the mark. The mark on the fake has a dot at the bottom of the letter U (Fig. 3 below). An original mark does not have a dot (Fig. 4 below).
The fakes that proliferate on the market affect all of us, whether we buy the object or not, because one a collecting area becomes inundated with fraudulent pieces, consumers loose confidence and begin to doubt even authentic pieces. This results in depressed demand and prices (to say nothing about sadly diminished collecting enjoyment.)
This information first appeared in Silver Magazine, November/December 1998. Reprinted by permission of Silver Magazine, Inc. and Janet Zapata.