A Guide to Buying Antique Mirrors

12th Dec 2016

Antique framed mirrors can cost a pretty penny. Since the 17th century, mirrors were a status symbol. Their uniqueness and high cost meant that only royalty and well-to-do households could afford them. As such, most antique mirrors boast of a well-made wooden or metal frame, ornate carvings and gilt finishing – all symbols of a luxurious lifestyle.

So, would you like to have a piece of history with an authentic antique mirror? Do a thorough inspection of the mirror first. Just because a mirror looks classically old does not mean that you are looking at an authentic item. Before you let go of your hard-earned money, it is best to check that what you are buying is really an antique mirror.

Here are some things to look at to see whether a mirror is a true antique or a modern replica:

  • Mirror frame. If the frame is made of wood, expect some signs of age and wear, even for a well-preserved frame. So a near-perfect surface will indicate that the item is not an antique. An antique will usually have natural darkening of the wood, some staining and chipping. In addition, the backs of antique mirrors are usually made of wood.
  • Screws. If the frame contains screws, take one out, if you can. Since antique screws are hand-made, they are marked by irregularity in shape, as well as the widths in between the spirals. Aside from this, the slot at the top (where the screwdriver goes) may not be at the exact center. More modern screws are well formed, with even spaces in between the spirals. Of course, it is possible that the frame’s screws were replaced in the not-so-distant past.
  • Detailing. The finishing of the picture frame is done by hand for antiques. So if the frame’s finishing is uniformly applied, chances are, it is a modern product.
  • Glass imperfections. Because the production of glass has not been perfected yet, expect imperfections in antiques. This can include a slightly wavy surface or bubbling within the glass. If the mirror has been made with a thin sheet coated with mercury, check for cloudy spots, as well as some greying or yellowing to the inside surface of the mirror glass. The spots or mottled patches should not be too uniform.
  • Thickness of the glass. Antique glass is normally thicker than modern versions. Of course, you may not be able to take the mirror from its frame. One way to check the thickness is to get a key. Gently, lay the tip of the key to the surface of the mirror. In antique mirrors, the actual tip and the reflected image of this tip will be very close, as compared to the same reflection in modern mirrors.
  • Color of the glass. Modern mirror glass will be colorless while antique glass tends to be grayish or yellowish due to the passage of time.

Another step to make sure that you are buying an authentic mirror is to buy only from reputable sources. However, not all of us have extra funds in our budget that we can spare for antique wall décor. If you want to get the look of antique mirrors, you can buy beautifully made replicas and even ease out of the hassle of having to determine whether that mirror is an antique.