At first glance, I thought I'd come across something really special. It was a very small box, 12" w x 6" d x 7" h, described in the auction catalog as "English, 17th/early 18th century." That description didn't hold up for a moment -- not a single piece of metal on it was old -- the nails were wire, the hinges and lock brass and the lock made no sense as a lock! No question the box was nineteenth century or later.
Also no question that the carving was among the best fake carving I've seen, The front and the lid were carved with identical patterns of foliated S-scrolls that looked pretty authentic (we might forgive the carved lid because the box was so small),
Slowly the fakery in the carving became apparent to me, giving a good example of how stupid fakers can be. Look at the pinwheels at the center of the design, and you'll see how the "wear" has been created by a chisel. Look at the frond-stalks on either side of the pinwheel and you'll see the same thing. Then ask why the center of the design (the least touched area) should have received the most wear, and why the wear was identical on both the front and the lid. See what we mean by a stupid faker.
Then look at the background that has been chiseled out -- a good place to see it is along the bottom of the front. It has not been taken out cleanly to an even depth with a fairly flat surface -- lazy faker.
The background has not been matted with a matting punch, but where there is any matting, it has been done with a single, blunt point. The absence of marks made by a proper matting tool (often two rows of six or eight small points) is frequently a sign of nineteenth-century carving. Matting tools were made locally by each joiner's shop, unlike chisels and gouges which were made in Birmingham. It seems that almost no matting tools survived, and nineteenth-century carvers did not go to the trouble of having one made.
Once I'd spotted the fakery in the details, the design itself became less convincing. The back-to-back S-scrolls were too far apart, and didn't form a heart shape when looked at together. The scrolls at each end of S were the same size -- the faker couldn't even copy an S-scroll accurately.
But, overall, the box is good looking -- it has a great color, it looks old, and it would make an interesting (and useful) "study piece" in a serious collection. But I didn't buy it.