Antique household items have been more popular than ever before over the past few years. People love them for their vintage aesthetic and their robust build quality. One of the most unique and valuable vintage items is an antique bed.
Antique bed frames were very prevalent a few centuries ago. Since they were made from different metals, like cast iron, some of them have withstood the test of time and still remain in good condition.
In this article, we’ll look at some information about cast iron bed frames and metal bed frames in general. We’ll also provide tips on how to determine their style and age, as well as help you determine your antique cast iron bed frame’s value.
Keep on reading if you’re interested in buying or selling an antique iron bed frame!
History of Cast Iron Bed Frames
Iron bed frames originated in Italy during the 17th century. Their purpose was to prevent infestations from bed bugs that were common in wooden beds. In fact, one of the oldest iron bed frames was an iron cradle with particularly pointy corners that dates back to 1620-1640.
Consistent production of metal bed frames began in England during the 1820s and in America during the 1850s. From the first iron bed frames that were built using Victorian cast iron until World War I, all-metal bed frames were handmade with exquisite techniques.
After World War I different mass production techniques were employed in the bed frame industry. Thus, metal bed frames became mass-produced, which saved time, but lessened the quality and finesse compared to handmade ones.
Styles of Cast Iron Bed Frames
There are several different styles of metal bed frames depending on the type of metal used to build them. These are:
Brass Bed Frames
Antique brass bed frames were made in two different types. Either the frame was entirely constructed out of solid brass or made using another metal with a brass coating over it. In general, using brass as a bed frame material has certain benefits.
When the brass is maintained correctly, it has a warm sheen to it. This can be very beneficial to your room’s aesthetic, as the warm tone and shiny metal surface reflect the light and brighten up your bedroom significantly.
However, if you want a shiny brass bed frame, you need to maintain it well and polish it regularly, as brass tends to tarnish quickly over time. This is also the most significant problem when you shop for antique brass bed frames, as they may be in bad condition and hard to restore.
Antique Iron Bed Frames
Iron, and more specifically cast iron, was one of the original materials used in metal bed frames. Its high usage was due to it being more affordable and easier to care for than brass. There are several different designs of iron bed frames, including Victorian style and Art Deco style.
Another benefit of iron is its malleability. This means that iron can be bent and shaped into detailed and distinct designs. Therefore, if you choose an antique cast iron bed frame, you’ll have no problem finding something unique that you like.
The biggest problem with iron as a material is rust. While some iron bed frames had rust treatment, you’ll be hard-pressed to find one that doesn’t have any signs of rusting. Not only that, but you’ll also need to maintain it properly and frequently in order to prevent additional rust.
Composite Metal Bed Frames
Sometimes, you might come across some antique metal bed frames that look like they were made from different materials. These bed frames are most likely built from composite metals. This means that two different metals -usually iron and brass- were mixed to create a synthetic metal.
The purpose of this was to get the best properties of both materials while also being more affordable than using pure brass. These mixed metal frames can have brass details on the headboard, footboard, or the frame’s side rails.
This dual-color creates a unique aesthetic that you can’t get with any other type of bed frame. If you’re a fan of eccentric designs, these bed frames might be the best solution.
Painted Metal Bed Frames
Another type of antique bed frame is the painted metal one. Furniture makers would sometimes paint the metal bed frames they made for different purposes. One of the most important ones was the aesthetic. Painted bed frames in pastel colors would brighten up peoples’ rooms.
Also, painting a metal bed frame could help accentuate its intricate design. Finally, some people enjoyed adding different floral patterns to their bed frames to distinguish them from mass-produced ones.
The biggest issue with painted metal bed frames is the paint itself. Paint doesn’t usually last as long as these metal bed frames do, and most of them will have wear and chipped paint signs. Nevertheless, you can just repaint them with some new paint, and they’ll look brand new and shiny in no time!
How to Date a Cast Iron Bed Frame?
Finding the date an antique cast iron bed frame was made can be very tricky. You need a lot of knowledge and experience in the antique furniture market, as there aren’t many clear-cut signs to show you when these bed frames were built. Nonetheless, there are a few things to look for that may help you determine the approximate age of an antique bed:
Search For Brand Marks
This is one of the easiest ways to find more information about the age of an antique cast iron bed frame. If you’re lucky enough to spot any marks from the manufacturer, you might be able to deduce the age of the frame.
You can usually find these marks on hidden spots that don’t attract attention. These can be behind the headboard or on the side rails.
Inspect The Build
If you can’t find any brand logos or labels, another telltale sign of antique bed frames is how the bed frame is put together. The oldest antique bed frames were held together with ropes between the footboard and headboard. This tying method changed from ropes to handmade cast brass bolts and eventually machined bolts.
Victorian beds also featured a proprietary joint on the corners of the frame. This joint was called mortise and tenon and had a horseshoe shape. If you spot this, your bed frame probably comes from the Victorian era.
Compare To Known Styles
If you can’t find any particular marks or signs on your bed frame, you can try to compare it to other architectural styles. If you find any similarities, your antique bed frame might originate from the same era.
There were three primary architectural styles of antique iron bed frames. The Victorian-style was around until the late 1800s. During the 19th century, the Art Nouveau style was also prominent. Finally, the Art Deco style briefly appeared during the 1920s and 1930s.
How Do I Know if My Iron Bed Is Antique?
If you want to purchase an antique cast iron bed frame, you need to ensure that it’s a true antique, not a modern one that simply looks vintage.
The most apparent sign should be natural wear from aging. Metals used during the 19th and the early 20th century were prone to rust and corrosion. So, if you find an antique bed frame that doesn’t have any signs of aging and has not had professional restoration, it’s most likely a modern reproduction.
Another way to distinguish antique from modern bed frames is that modern beds no longer have the headboard and footboard integrated into the frame. You should determine the metal that’s used. Antique bed frames primarily utilized cast iron or brass, whereas modern ones use much lighter and cheaper aluminum.
What Are Antique Iron Beds Worth?
If you want to buy or sell an antique iron bed, you have to do some research to determine its value. A few different factors can affect the price and value of an antique bed frame. Some of the most important ones are:
Antique bed frames come in several sizes, from single beds to full-size ones. One of the most popular sizes of antique beds is the ¾ size. This is in the middle between a double bed and a full-size bed and has approximately 48 inches of width and 75 inches of length.
Since this bed frame size is no longer made, it can be hard to find a mattress if your antique bed frame. Some mattress manufacturers may be able to craft a custom mattress for you, but ideally, you should look to purchase antique bed frames in standard sizes. Also, if you own an antique bed frame in a standard size, it’ll be much more valuable.
Since antique bed frames were primarily handmade, they consisted of several different design styles and individual details by each crafter. However, most of these designs don’t blend well with modern design features.
Thus, you should look for an antique bed frame that will provide your room with a vintage aesthetic and mix well with its modern characteristics. Some bed frame designs like the Victorian style have stood the test of time and still fit well with modern decor. Therefore, they usually have more value than other eccentric designs.
Just like any other vintage item, its condition plays a huge part in its value and retail price. This is especially true of antique iron bed frames since the metal used is very susceptible to rust. So, when you shop for one, make sure that it’s not rusted or eroded severely.
Also, if you find a bed frame that has been restored, you should make sure that the job was done correctly by an expert. The last thing you want is to buy a nice-looking antique bed frame, only for it to begin wearing out in the first few months.
Before you buy an antique bed frame, you should take as much time as you can to do research on them. Try to find any details you can about the manufacturer. Determine the approximate age of the bed frame and compare it to other similar bed frames and what price they fetched.
You can utilize websites like eBay or Etsy to find some antique cast iron bed frame listings. Also, you can visit some local antique stores or auctions. There you’ll be able to see the frames in person and ask the dealers or auctioneers any questions you want.
Furthermore, try to avoid getting scammed. Many people will try to sell you a bed frame by labeling it as antique when it’s just a modern interpretation of an antique design.
Finally, if you’re unsure about the value of your antique iron bed frame or want things like insurance on it, you can arrange for a professional appraisal. Have a look at organizations like the American Society of Appraisers or the Appraisers Association of America to find an appraiser near you.
Antique bed frames can be an excellent addition to your room. Most of them will blend in with the room’s modern design while also offering you a vintage aesthetic. Not to mention that these bed frames were built with very sturdy metals, and it’s no wonder they’re still perfectly usable.
Make sure to determine your antique cast iron bed frame’s value, so you don’t underpay or overpay for one. Searching for their history and origins also gives you a perspective on how people used to live centuries ago.
So, take your time and dive deep into the world of antique bed frames. Who knows what hidden treasures you might find!