How to Identify an Antique Mirror

Antique mirrors are an attractive addition to any period-style home. They can also be worth a fortune, like many rare and ancient things.

If you would like to buy an antique mirror or figure out the value of one that you have, read on to find how to tell if it’s legit.

The Glass Should Look Old

This is the one time that imperfections are good. Mirrors constructed a long time ago are bound to have defects.

Look for signs of bubbling or slight waviness. Old scratches are also a sign of advanced age in a mirror. Another quirk of old glass is its distinct yellow or gray tinge.

Thanks to modern manufacturing techniques, sheet glass stays in perfect condition for a long time. If the glass on the specimen is immaculate, there’s a good chance you are not looking at an antique mirror.

Look for Shimmer

Antique mirrors were crafted long before we discovered the dangers of mercury. Thus, mercury was still used as the reflective backing for the glass.

Mercury was spread over a thin tin sheet, and the glass was placed on top of it. The ensuing chemical reaction caused the two materials to stick together.

When these kinds of mirrors age, they develop a characteristic crystalline shimmer behind the glass.

Some antique mirrors have a silver backing instead of tin, so a mirror without this glisten could still be genuinely old.

Age Blotches

Regardless of the backing used, an antique mirror is bound to have some blotchy spots. These are a caused by oxidation of the metals over time.

The effect is usually more visible near the bottom of the mirror. Moisture from cleaning the mirror seeps into the frame and drains downward. This accelerates oxidization near the bottom of the mirror.

If the oxidization looks uniform, you are probably looking at a fake.

Examine the Frame

Most genuine antique mirrors will have a frame. Unless it has looked after with exceptional care, the frame should have some signs of wear. Look for chips, discoloration, or cracks that show the item has a history.

Another tell-tale sign is in the way the mirror fastens to the frame. Phillips head screws were only invented in the 1930’s.

Paper backing is also a no-no. Old mirrors should have a wood backing and crude, hand-crafted fasteners. These old-fashioned screws are likely to have irregular thread and heads that are a little off-center.

A few of these frames will have a date stamp or the manufacturer’s tag on the back.

Get Advice from an Antique Mirror Appraiser

If all the above factors check out and you think you may be on to a good thing, ask an appraiser for their opinion. They will investigate the mirror and give you a written description of the item and its worth.

Although this is a costly service, it could be worth it if your heirloom mirror turns out to be priceless. If you are considering buying the mirror, an appraiser could save you from getting ripped off.

Where to Get Your Hands on Antiques

One of the best places to find valuable antique items is at an estate sale. At these events, you will encounter invaluable assets as well as charming knick knacks to add to your collection.

Check out our events page for an upcoming sale near you!

Prestige Estate Services Sarasota/Tampa
941-893-3431 or 1-844-EST-SALE