Dating antique hand bells
Three types of new sleigh bells are most often misrepresented as antiques in antique stores, flea markets, and online or live auctions. My goal in this article is to help you identify the modern versions of these sleigh bells from the antique ones.First, some definitions: When I use the term "antique" on this website, I am specifically talking about bells made during the "horse and buggy times".
When I use the terms "new" or "modern" or "vintage" or "reproduction", I am referring to sleigh bells made after the era of horse transportation -- from the 1930s through today.Other artificially aged modern bells can be varying shades of green, brown, or even black.Key signs of artificially aged sleigh bells are splotchy color on any one bell and a wide variation in color on bells next to each other on a strap.Left: Freshly polished new bell with a bright yellow-gold color. This color can be produced quickly by using an antiquing agent or slowly by natural exposure to air.Right: Bell with a rusty patina not naturally found on brass.After reading this article, see also Fakes II: Old Straps that Aren't , Fakes III: Case Studies, Dating Bells, and Bell Designs for more information.
You can also compare the antique and new bells we have for sale.
Bell color and texture New bells direct from the manufacturer have smooth surfaces with no cracks, holes, dings, or other typical signs of age or use.
Artificially aged new bells have a splotchy, rusty color that are never seen on antique bells.
Middle: Artificially aged new bells, one brown and one gray-black, side by side on a strap.
This variation in color between adjacent bells would be unusual on an original strap of antique bells.
Right: Artificially aged new bell with a tell-tale splotchy rusty color.