Vintage and Antique Mirror FAQs
How can you tell if a mirror is old?
There are several ways to tell if a mirror is or not. The first is to look at the mirror plate itself. Mercury Mirrors first began to be used from the 16th Century and used thicker glass than today. You can gauge the glass thickness by placing an object like a pen or coin against the glass and spot the depth of the gap before the reflection begins. The mirror will also ‘sparkle’ and create a softer image than modern mirrors. Silver backed mirrors emerged in 1835 and the mirror has a slightly more yellow tint overall than new examples. Older mirrors are more liable to have imperfections and losses to the silvering. Modern mirrors are backed in a tin foil which produces a very crisp image. You can often also date a mirror from the frame, but it is important to recognise that old mirrors regularly get new mirror plates and old mirrors can be put into modern frames. Many people today ‘age’ modern mirrors using paint or artificial wear, but these can usually be differentiated from genuine old examples.
What different types of mirror are there?
As a loved item in any home there are many forms and styles of mirror, although they are all for the same basic purpose. The most common types are convex mirrors (which are domed outwards and display a wider field of view than usual) and flat mirrors. Those placed above the fireplace and have a flat base are called Overmantel mirrors, while those originally intended to be hung over a side table are called Pier mirrors. Depending on the size there are several names for mirrors with their own stand. These are commonly called Cheval or Swing mirrors if they tilt and Toilet or Dressing mirrors if they were intended to be placed on top of a table or chest. Hand mirrors are held in the hand as the name suggests.
How much do Antique mirrors cost?
Like any piece of antique furniture antique and vintage mirrors can vary dramatically in price. This can be due to the size, look, rarity and overall desirability of the piece. Generally larger more grand mirrors always command more money than smaller because they are status symbols for wealth and antique examples are usually (with some exceptions) more valuable than vintage or modern mirrors. When purchasing a mirror online it is important to consider the shipping to yourself as this can be prohibitive. Most postal companies will not offer compensation for damage and personal couriers will often charge a slight premium for the extra care required. This is why it is worthwhile buying from our reputable dealers on LoveAntiques as they usually sort the delivery for you.
How to antique a mirror?
Many people today enjoy mirrors which appear weathered and worn as occurs naturally over time with antique silvered or mercury mirrors. While nothing beats original worn mirror plates, this is not always possible so weathered effects are created instead. There are lots of videos and descriptions online for how to ‘age’ a mirror but there are basically two approaches. The first is to take a modern mirror and create gaps and flaking to the foil backing using cleaning products, paint stripper and abrasives such as wire wool. These gaps are then accentuated with dark paint. The second approach is to begin with a clear sheet of glass and build up a weathered mirror look using layers of mirror-effect spray paint and an oil or washing up liquid to create natural defects and spots. Either approach can be quite effective and create a unique look.
Where can I buy antique mirrors?
There are more places than ever to buy antique mirrors from physical bricks and mortar shops to online portals such as LoveAntiques. Since mirrors can be quite fragile it is best to purchase from a reputable dealer which will give you the piece of mind that the item is genuine as listed, that it is in good condition and who will sort out safe delivery for you if needed. There are many styles to choose from depending on your taste and the size of the space it is going into, but for later resale classic timeless examples hold their value well and will always be desirable. Compared to the past we now appreciate a degree of wear and degradation to the mirror plate and frames, but it is important to remember that there is a difference between worn and worn out.