Antique or vintage mirrors have a wonderful history, and it's fun to do a little exploring to understand some of the reasons behind the existence of the mirrors, which, depending on the time period, were used for practical reasons of needing mirror to make sure you look your best, or to also be part of the décor of the home in almost any room.
In the early years of mirrors, they had a resemblance to picture frames in that they included the elaborate gilding and carvings that we associate especially with the gold picture frames that were popular in that period.
Eventually they moved from wood-only to other types of frames like plaster on a wire, which were called composition frames. The problem with those, although looking nice, were the obvious chipping associated with plaster.
Antique Mirror photo
Early antique mirror design
Glassmakers from France developed a system of making larger glass plates for mirrors where they included two or more smaller placed alongside each other. The problem with the thinner plates was the reflection given back was darker.
Eventually development of thicker glass plates emerged, and a better reflection resulted.
Appeal of vintage mirrors
The quality, craftsmanship and design of antique and vintage mirrors continue to appeal to people today. So if a period piece can't be found or afforded, there are many quality reproductions that can be acquired for use.
Reproductions, as a rule of thumb, are thinner than period pieces, although it definitely depends on what period of history is being looked at.
Antique Romantic Mirror
How to Identify Antique Mirrors
How do you know if an antique mirror is really antique?
Just like old furniture or desks, etc., there is a type of craftsmanship done that can be identified in mirrors. For example, handmade dovetails in old desk drawers which can be easily seen.
For antique mirrors, there are two things to consider. The first is the veneer of the mirror. Assuming there is wood framing, you can remove a screw in the mirror, which should in itself be handmade. Widths between the screw spirals won't be uniform, and so you can determine a screw is old based on that. Slots on the head of the screw can also be off-center, revealing the handmade aspect of the screw.
As far as the veneer goes, antique veneers were thicker and also of irregular widths. Today's veneers are completely uniform and of the same width.
So if you have different veneer widths, along with handmade screws, you can be pretty sure it's an antique mirror.
How old is the mirror glass?
The glass of an antique or vintage mirror is vital to the value of a piece, and there's a fairly easy way to figure out if it is old.
First, before thicker glass came about, all of it was thin, wavy and had a grayish look that was not real good at reflecting. So that could give one clue.
Second, there's a little trick that is easy to use to get an idea if the glass is older. Take a key and hold its tip to the glass. When looking at the reflection of the key, see how it shows. If the reflected key tip is very close to the tip of the real key, it's probably antique glass.
Antique Venetian Mirror
Tips on acquiring an antique mirror
Depending on the purpose you have for buying an antique mirror, here are a few things to consider while going through the process.
The first thing is to determine what you have available in your budget. Antique mirrors can be relatively inexpensive when looking at handheld mirrors, all the way up to thousands of dollars each for larger ones.
Second, figure out the type you want. If you're not sure, you can search around on the Internet, visit antique shops, or any place where older things may be found.
All you're trying to do here is get ideas. It's better to search around to see what's available than just take the first thing that's a bargain or appeals to you.
Finally, once you find some mirrors you like, either print them out if they're from the Internet, or take a photo of them and place them on the wall to see how they would look where you're thinking of putting them or it.
Groupings or individual antique mirrors
One idea many people that love vintage mirrors have is to start a collection that can be grouped on a wall. This can look very attractive and nice in the right setting. So you may consider that when buying your first mirror ... whether it's only going to stand alone, or whether you might like to add on to it someday to make a grouping of mirrors on the wall.
Vintage Mirror Grouping
Vintage Hand Mirrors
If you're just in love with vintage mirrors and are looking to collect them or place them strategically in your home as a decoration, hand mirrors are a great way to do it.
Not only are they in most cases more affordable, but they offer a flexibility that larger wall mirrors don't. There are also more styles and images to choose from which can go in a lot of different rooms and circumstances.
Keep in mind that they many times hand mirrors included brushes or sets, so you may want to include that in your research.
Antique Vintage Hand Mirrors
While a pocket mirror could still be used for the purpose of giving yourself a quick look, they are definitely a collectible for the most part.
These little mirrors were like a political button of years ago, except they had a mirror on one side of the button-like object.
Most of these were created for the purpose of advertising. Whereas the mirror part was to encourage the ladies to keep it to use, the advertising message was always just around the corner on the other side of the mirror to remind you of the one who made it.
Antique pocket mirrors
Vintage mirrors and weddings
Once place that vintage mirrors can play a big part today is in weddings. Somehow and for some reason they just go together, and the ornateness and uniqueness add a special touch to the proceedings and memories.
Vintage old mirrors have a way of giving the feeling of continuity and beauty, which is a major reason they're so compellng for those who fall in love with them.
Melanie on August 30, 2017:
I have an older Toledo Glass and Mirror fancy vintage mirror from 1969. Can you tell me more about it?
LisaKeating on July 04, 2014:
I really enjoyed this hub and learned some new information. I recently acquired an antique tri-fold vanity mirror that was made in Brussels. Unfortunately, it did not go with my home décor. I sold it in my vintage booth. Mirrors are such a great decorating piece. Loved your pictures.
angela on April 10, 2014:
I have a mirror that is electro copper plated by: galvanle procoss date: may 7 1954 carolina mirror Corporation north wilkesbor, N.C. How do i find out how much its worth?
martellawintek on December 01, 2012:
well granty i shouldn't give it out but here is there contact
and some info , there there most competitive in the game ,just say myself-martellatold you to ring him
ReVintageLannie on November 03, 2012:
I am listing a collection of hand held mirrors on my Etsy Store link below..
email@example.com on September 08, 2012:
Just posted about women's pocket mirror
Darrin on September 08, 2012:
I have a hand held mirror with a picture on both sides of a man standing with a type of guitar and a women sitting with something on her lap looking away this was passed down from three generations would like to find out more aboUt it thank /
Marilee M on May 31, 2012:
I am desperately trying to find the mirror or a reproduction of the mirror pictured 2nd on this hub (oval, east/west, floral motif). Can anyone help?
Sara on May 10, 2012:
I have an old mirror. It is very heavy. Rather plain except on one side of glass is etching of tree limb with leaves. It is 22" x 30". On the back it says, "This mirror has been copper plated, April 17, 1968, Carolina Mirror Corp. North Wilkesboro, North Carolina. Can you tell me worth?
amanda on April 27, 2012:
i have a mirror in which a picture appears when pluged in it
was my gradmars gold frame
anna brown on March 24, 2012:
how do you know the prices of these mirrors?
ninacblues on December 04, 2011:
i'm completely in love with handheld mirrors ,and i asked to myself everytime who could have been the old owner
julian parker on September 21, 2011:
love reading about the magic of mirrors,wwwgothicmirrors.net
lalik on November 16, 2010:
I love vintage mirrors, they make your home look stylish and elegant..I just got one from my trip to Peru, it's called "cuscaja", it is a handcrafted mirror made by Peruvian artisans, the frame is made of wood, hand-painted and covered with glass..so beautiful! I found this site http://www.inka-store.com/lang-en/76-mirrors
that sells "cuscajas", you can take a look there, and hope you like it as much as I do...
brandi on March 23, 2010:
how can i sell a mirror that is identical to one you have shown under handheld vintage mirrors, it it the nicest one you have on display
brandi slag on March 23, 2010:
i have an antique vintage handheld mirror that is identical to one of the real ones you have shown how can i fine out its worth
Thomas on February 21, 2010:
Wow! I just like this hub. Plenty of information and the venetian mirror look great.
Thomas of http://www.overmantlemirror.org
TxGram on January 27, 2010:
What method was used to hang the hand mirrors on the wall?
Gift Experts on August 20, 2009:
Wonderful designs of mirrors! Great!!
Nice to meet you.
Research Analyst on July 23, 2009:
These mirrors are so beautiful, I love the victorian style décor and I have a Dreamline Victorian Antique Vanity Mirror in my bathroom, simply devine.
Athlyn Green from West Kootenays on July 18, 2009:
What an interesting Hub! And such beautiful pics. of mirrors. Bookmarked.