How to Identify Authentic Charles Eames Chairs

How to Identify Authentic Charles Eames Chairs

Spotting Genuine Eames Design: Tips for Evaluating Real vs Replica Chairs

How to Identify Authentic Charles Eames Chairs

Charles Eames and his wife Ray are icons of American design. During their collaboration from 1941 to 1988, they created groundbreaking furniture pieces that incorporated new technology and materials. Their sleek, modern designs for chairs, sofas, and lounges became hallmarks of mid-century style.

Today, Eames furnishings are still hugely popular. As reported by the LA Times, original vintage Eames chairs can sell for thousands of dollars at auction. However, with this demand comes a flood of replicas trying to capitalize on the Eames name.

So how can you identify authentic original Eames furniture?

There are some key techniques you can use to distinguish real Eames chairs and other designs from convincing knockoffs. Checking for authentic manufacturer labels and stamps, studying the signature design elements, examining materials and construction, and learning the history of Eames pieces will help you spot the real deal.

This guide will cover all the essential tips for identifying genuine vintage and modern Eames furniture, so you can find the true mid-century icons.

Look for Originator Stamps & Markings

One of the best ways to authenticate vintage Eames furniture is to look for markings from the original manufacturers. Here are the key stamps and labels to look for:

Herman Miller Stamps

How to Identify Authentic Charles Eames Chairs - Herman Millar stamps

Charles and Ray Eames partnered with the Michigan-based company Herman Miller in 1945 to produce many of their most famous designs. Check under and on the bottom of chairs and furniture for the Herman Miller stamped labels.

These include:

  • The Herman Miller Oval label
  • Exhibition label
  • Herman Miller red foil label
  • Black ink stamped labels.

The iconic Eames Lounge Chair for Herman Miller has its own unique white rectangular label only found on real lounges.

Vitra Stamps

When Eames Designs entered Europe in the 1950s, the company Vitra secured the production rights. Look for crisply stamped labels with the Vitra name, location, model, and production date.

Vitra labels are typically found on the underside of Eames furniture bases. Original 1950s and 60s labels will include the location “Weil am Rhein” where Vitra is headquartered in Germany.

Later Vitra stamps changed the location to “Vitra International AG”. This can help date an Eames piece.

Location of Stamps

For Eames chairs, you’ll typically find authentic originator labels underneath the chair on the connecting rods, crossbars, or underside of the seat. Labels may also be stamped into the back of a chair base.

For larger furniture like sofas, labels are often found discreetly on the underside or back. It’s common to see a red foil Herman Miller label on the rear of an older Eames lounge chair for example.

Vintage Labels

How to Identify Authentic Charles Eames Chairs - Vintage labels

Some mid-century Eames furniture may also have original vintage paper labels still intact. These can indicate limited production runs.

Look for special 1960s-70s labels like Herman Miller’s “Eames Design” silver foil tag. These are collectors items themselves and add value and proof of age to vintage Eames finds.

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Study Signature Design Elements

How to Identify Authentic Charles Eames Chairs - Study Signature Design Elementsppppp

Beyond markings, getting to know the signature Eames chair shapes, silhouettes, and style details will assist you in spotting convincing fakes. Here are the iconic Eames design elements to look for:

Distinctive Chair Shapes

The Eames Lounge Chair, Dining Chair, Plywood Chair, Rocking Chair, Wire Chair, and more all have uniquely identifiable shapes and curves. Study authorized photos and dimensions to learn the exact chair forms.

For example, the Eames Lounge and Ottoman has a width of 37” and depth of 34.5”. Fakes may try to approximate the silhouette with slightly off proportions.

Base & Leg Styles

Eames chairs stand on various leg designs like wire rods, molded plastic glides, wooden tapering legs, and Eiffel tower metal legs. The bases should have clean precise lines and high quality materials.

Watch for plastic glides on fake Eames chairs that try to imitate the look of authentic rubber. The coloring may be slightly off.

Eames Lounge Details

The Eames Lounge silhouette, wood trim, and cushions have very specific details. The chair seat and headrest are fixed at a 90-110 degree angle.

On authentic lounges, the plywood is smoothly finished and seamless. Fakes often expose rough edges or glue marks along the plywood seams.

The ottoman is fully upholstered and lacks exposed wood trim. Fakes sometimes add fake trim details.

Upholstery & Textiles

Vintage Eames chairs have cushions in the proper shapes and upholstery in leathers like cowhide and Moroccan sheepskin. Watch for cheap vinyl or “pleather” on counterfeits.

Real leather will show natural graining and markings. Artificial leather has a plastic, uniform look with very faint fake grains.

Herman Miller used specific fabrics designers authorized by the Eameses. Learn to identify fabrics like Alexander Girard designs.

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Examine Materials & Hardware

Genuine Eames furniture is constructed from quality materials that match the proper periods of design. Here are materials to look for:

Wood Species

Mid-century Eames items used rich wood veneers like Brazilian rosewood, cherry, walnut, ash, and oak. See the wood grain patterns when possible.

Later birch plywood series were introduced in the 1970s. Research when each wood type was in use.

Quality Joinery

Examine the joinery connecting wooden chair components. Original Eames designs showcase expert wood joinery without visible screws.

Fake Eames chairs often have rough, unfinished joinery that doesn’t cleanly meet. You may see gaps, hot glue marks, and cheap metal hardware.


Metal parts should be well-finished and have minimal markings from production. The shock mounts connecting the back and seat of chairs will be sturdy.

Inspect hardware finishes for flaking or rust. Cheap replicas will have thin castings and exposed screw heads. Shock mounts should have the Herman Miller name stamped.

Plastics & Textiles

From fiberglass to polypropylene, Eames incorporated plastics innovatively into furniture. See smooth formed edges and consistent colored plastic. Touch textiles for soft, quality feel.

Vintage plastics will show some signs of use like fading, scratches, or crazing. Be suspicious of “new” plastics that are too perfect.

Assess Construction & Craftsmanship

Studying how the Eames furniture pieces are put together will reveal expert construction and hand-finished details on originals. Replicas often cut corners in quality construction.

Precise Joinery

Dining chair legs and arms should join precisely with no gaps or uneven legs. Dowel joints properly connect seat backs and bases.

With knockoffs, you may see uneven leg heights, gaps in joints, glue drips, or loose joints that creak when stressed. Authentic Eames joinery is seamless.

Exposed screw heads are also a giveaway. Original Eames chairs use integrated brads or screws subtly hidden from view.

Handcrafted Details

See evidence of hand sanded edges on molded plywood and hand-welting on leather cushions. These subtleties separate authentic Eames.

Real Eames lounge chairs have the leather upholstery expertly hand-wrapped around the edges of the wood trim. Fakes often simply staple leather into place.

The stitching for piping and seams will be clean and straight on vintage Eames, unlike uneven machine stitching on fakes.

Shock Mounts

The rubber shock mounts connecting the seat and back on Eames chairs keeps the frame sturdy. Under stress, authentic shock mounts evenly distribute weight without loosening or creaking.

Cheap replica shock mounts will deteriorate, become brittle, and split over time with use. Inspect mounts for cracks or uneven wear.

Hardware Tests

Gently pull on hardware like screws or bolt connections. Properly installed hardware will not loosen or detach even when stressed slightly.

Cheap nuts and bolts on knockoffs will quickly come loose or strip. This is a warning sign of overall low quality construction.

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Learn the Eames Story

Getting to know the timeline of the Eames’ furniture designs will help you identify pieces that don’t fit the original decades of production. Authentic Eames chairs should match the materials and styles used in specific periods.

Early Eames – Plywood Era

The Eames plywood chairs like the LCW (Lounge Chair Wood) were first introduced by Evans Products in 1946 after Charles and Ray designed prototypes for a plywood splint competition. The model numbers for early plywood Eames chairs start with “LCW”.

The plywood originally used was war surplus Maharam fabricator birch ply. Later more expensive woods like walnut and cherry veneers were offered by the 1950s.

Mid Century – Fiberglass, Metal, Plastic

After early plywood came experiments with fiberglass, wire legs, and new plastics like fiberglass.

The fiberglass shell chairs were first produced with metal frames starting in 1948. The later plastic chairs like the RAR rocker first appeared in 1950. These explored colorful plastic seats and metal wire bases.

Also in the 1950s, the Eames lounge chair was created along with the sleek Eames tables like the Eames coffee table.

1970s – Relaunches

By the 1970s, Herman Miller looked to re-launch some discontinued Eames designs in new materials like birch ply for cost savings. New colors also appeared later like bright reds or blues.

Reissued Eames

Starting in the 1990s, many Eames classics saw “relaunch” by authorized producers using modern techniques.

For example, Vitra reintroduced the soft pad lounge chair in 2015 with updated cushions and combing the vintage and new in their marketing and labels.

Evolution of Materials

Understand how materials evolved through the decades – plywood first in the 40s, then wire and metal legs in the 50s, plastics in the 60s, and cost-saving birch ply later. Don’t be fooled by materials “out of place”.

Related Questions

What Colour was the original Eames chair?

The earliest Eames plywood chairs first produced by Evans Products in 1946 were made using surplus wartime birch ply, which had a light natural birch wood tone.

In 1947, Evans added seats upholstered in parchment fabric with a neutral tan color. Chrome metal legs complemented this palette.

By the 1950s, the ply seats were available in walnut, cherry, and mahogany veneers expanding the color options. Herman Miller also offered colorful seat cushions in greens, blues, reds, and more by the 1960s as bold colors became popular.

So while light, neutral wood tones were the very first Eames chair colors, the iconic chairs soon expanded into brighter hues and rich wood veneers in the 1950s and beyond.

Do Eames chairs go up in value?

Yes, as authentic vintage mid-century modern furniture, Eames chairs have steadily gone up in value and demand as the iconic designs become rare.

As reported by the LA Times, Eames lounge chairs that originally retailed for $500 can now auction for over $4000 in excellent restored condition.

Rarer models like a rosewood Eames lounge and ottoman set or early production plywood chairs can sell for $10,000 to collectors and museums. Even less rare side chairs in good vintage condition still command prices of $1000 and up.

As more time passes since these chairs were originally produced, the values are expected to continue rising for authentic pieces in sought-after materials like rosewood or teak.

Are Eames chairs valuable?

While not every Eames chair model is hugely valuable, many vintage examples are quite valuable to collectors and in the secondhand vintage furniture market.

Some of the most valuable and sought-after Eames chairs include:

  • Rosewood Lounge Chair & Ottoman – $10,000+
  • Early Evans Plywood Chairs – $4,000-$12,000
  • Vintage Dining Chairs In Special Finishes – $1000-$4000
  • Rare Early Production Models Like DCM Chairs

Condition drastically affects value, with refurbished examples reaching much higher prices. One-of-a-kind custom models also fetch premium pricing at auction.

Even less rare side chairs in wood bases can still sell for several hundred dollars in good vintage condition, while more common examples like fiberglass shell chairs are typically $100-$300 depending on condition.

What era is Eames furniture?

The first Eames chairs were designed in the early 1940s, making Eames chairs classics of mid-century modern style.

The earliest plywood chairs were released in 1946 into the late 1940s as postwar modernism emerged. Iconic designs like the lounge chair appeared in the 1950s.

Eames furniture remained in production through the 1960s and 70s, though some models were retired. Of the vintage pieces, 1950s-60s are considered the prime era today.

Some Eames classics have been revived and re-issued in recent decades by authorized producers like Herman Miller. So you can find both original mid-century and authentic modern editions of Eames designs today.


With so many reproductions and “Eames-inspired” labeling, identifying genuine Charles and Ray Eames-designed furniture can seem daunting. But armed with the techniques in this guide, you can more confidently determine authenticity.

Start by checking for those all-important manufacturing stamps from Herman Miller and Vitra. Beyond markings, recognize the signature shapes, lines, details and materials that make Eames pieces special. Examine construction and craftsmanship for clues. And finally, know the history of these icons of mid-century modernism to spot inconsistencies.

Learning to identify authentic Eames will help you find enduring examples of this pioneering American design that will last generations to come.