Bonhams turns to CSI in their fight with the collectibles forgers
The Chinese art boom of recent years has seen many spectacular results in auction rooms across the globe. The country's massive economic growth has quickly established China as one of the world's biggest collectibles markets.

But the rising demand for Chinese artworks has also seen an increase in the number of forgeries appearing. While prices for the finest Imperial porcelain have soared, so have the ambitions of highly accomplished fakers, with many looking to take advantage of a market feverish for top quality material.

High profile auction houses have always used a variety of authentication methods to ensure their treasurers are genuine, but these methods have sometimes been seen as too invasive and new techniques have long been sought.

However, a new collaboration between auction house Bonhams and researchers at Cranfield University looks set to strike a blow in the fight against forgeries.

The project combines the use of new 'trace element analysis' with non-invasive sampling techniques, along with an extensive database of authenticated samples.

These techniques have long been associated with forensic 'scene-of-crime' evidence, but this will be the first time they have been used on ancient antiques.

This will be particularly useful in the field of Chinese art which has become one of the hottest sectors of the global art market in recent years, and nowhere more so than in the demand for fine antique porcelain.


Pair Qianlong enamel teapots
Sales of Chinese porcelain such as this record-breaking
pair of Qianlong Dynasty teapots have soared in recent years

"This is the most exciting art-authentication project I have ever seen", said Colin Sheaf, Chairman of Bonhams Asia, and the global auctioneer's senior Chinese art specialist. "For decades we have sought a forensic technology which will easily and reliably address the authenticity problems generated by 30 years of relentless faking of expensive Chinese ceramics."

The project combines cutting-edge Western technology with China's finest Imperial art in a unique and unprecedented collaboration.

Bonhams will provide a database of samples by which new samples can be measured, and Cranfield's specialist technology and team of experts will carry out the analysis which could make expensive fakes a thing of the past.

Dr Andrew Shortland, Reader in Forensic Archaeomaterials and Director of the Centre for Archaeological and Forensic Analysis at Cranfield University said, "The analysis of a wide range of art and historical objects is one of the most exciting growth areas for us. It is a pleasure to work with the experts from Bonhams on this project, and I look forward to developing robust scientific techniques to help them in their identification of copies and fakes."

A strong market will always attract unscrupulous forgers, but in recent years a combination of new authentication techniques and strict self-regulation within the industry has made it far more difficult for them to operate undiscovered.

At Paul Fraser Collectibles we have long understood that rigorous authentication is vital to ensure the stability of the market. We have utilised the experience of a dedicated team of experts to ensure that every item we sell is genuine, and have always advised investors on the importance of buying from trustworthy dealers.

This new project could signal the beginning of a revolution in antique authentication, and that can only mean great things for collectors, investors, and the long-term growth of an already thriving market.

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