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Identifying Antique Mirrors

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Framed antique mirrors are valuable because of its rarity, history and classic beauty. As an interior designer, you may want to suggest to clients the addition of an antique framed mirror to add a sense of timeless elegance to the room. However, it is useful to know even just the basics on how to determine whether a mirror is truly an antique and worth its asking price.

Here are some indications that a mirror is truly an antique and not a reproduction:

  • Size. For mirrors that go back to the 1800s, the size will be no more than 2 feet. This is due to limitations in the manufacturing technology of mirrors.
  • Signs of aging. For one, the antique wood frame will not be in pristine condition, regardless of how carefully it has been preserved. There will be signs of aging that shows in the discoloration of the gilded finish, as well as uneven corners, which may be caused by the expansion and contraction of the wood in response to the heat and cold over many, many years. As for the mirror, there will be some spots and discolorations, particularly at the lower area. Give the frame a careful sniff – newer framed mirrors will give the smell of newly processed wood.
  • Imperfect glass. The method for manufacturing glass was only perfected during the modern times. Thus, antique mirrors will have glass that has some bubbling or waves. Although this can be distracting in mirrors, an imperfect glass will indicate age. A perfectly flat glass only gives a clue that the mirror is not an antique.
  • Sparkly reflections. A mirror that has a reflection that is crystal-like and sparkly shows that it may have some mercury in it. The ancient method (which harks back to the 16th century) involves melding a sheet of tin with some mercury spread over it onto the glass. This process causes the tin to stick to the glass but results in a sparkly reflection.
  • Materials and manufacturing method used. Some materials are only available during modern times – this includes modern (and perfectly formed) screws, staples and even glue. The same goes for manufacturing methods. The edge of the glass of the antique mirrors will be more rounded while newer glass will have a crisper edge that results from being machine cut. More modern frames will have factory-rounded corners, holes made by drills and perfectly symmetrical shapes. Remember that antique frame will be handcrafted. No matter the expertise of the artisans who worked on the mirror, a handcrafted piece of work will not yield a product that is perfectly symmetrical. Look at the screws – old screws will have some unevenness. They will also usually have single slot heads. Of course, some screws may be new if the old screws have already been replaced.
  • Look for other signs. This may include trademarks and labels, as well as the date when the frame was made.

If you want to make sure, you can also work to have the antique mirror appraised by an antiquities expert. The appraiser may even provide you with an indication of the age of your piece, as well as where it came from and its current value.

Now, if an antique framed mirror is something that is way above your client’s budget, you can also look at high quality framed mirrors such as what we have available in InLine Ovals.