Use a magnifying tool to carefully examine all around the frame.
How to Date When a Mirror Was Made
Look for a production date on the frame, on the back or in the corner. It may have the name of the manufacturer; if you can identify the manufacturer, you can research when that particular mirror was made. Frames with engraving or embedded sketching, or that are ornately embellished, are more indicative of older age.
Examine the back of the mirror for any identifying information about the production date or manufacturer. Most valuable mirrors date to or earlier, but a very elaborate design, even from , is still more valuable than less ornate designs. Carefully remove the mirror from the frame and examine the surface of the glass closely.
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Genuine silver backing will usually feature light spots and clear areas. Older glass may even be a bit wavy. Even newer mirrors' backing may turn black and flake off, so that is not necessarily indicative of an antique mirror.
Antique and Vintage Mirrors
If it's a wall mirror, note the thickness at the top, middle and bottom. Usually older mirrors are noticeably thicker at the bottom. Uniform color, with no significant spotting or chips, increases the value of a mirror. Closely examine the edges of the mirror. Beveled edges are indicative of older mirrors, since grinding and polishing glass is time-consuming and expensive. Beveled edges indicate the glass is good quality, and the beveled edges add strength to the mirror.
Newer glass is thinner and gives a whiter reflection than old glass, so test its age by holding the edge of a white card right up against the glass. If the card and the reflection appear to be the same white color, then the mirror was most likely made after Should the reflection appear more of a yellow or gray hue, then the glass was most likely made before Items 50 years old or more are usually classified as antiques, although some experts contend that years or older is better. In larger upper class houses, mirrors of all kinds were designed and made, from smaller antique wall mirrors to pier mirrors and usually the grander examples would have gilding.
Mahogany was the main wood used for the frames due to the beautiful finish and the durability of the wood. Some would have pediments on the top usually with a prominent central motif in the form of a spread eagle, or inlaid with a shell pattern. As mirrors developed, new styles were produced like the rococo and Chinese ornament to the frames and you would see Chinese designs like exotic birds, or some would come with gothic elements.
Then the new vogue was simplicity as Adam and Hepplewhite, designed more delicately proportioned mirrors, oval and rectangular in shape, with simpler scrollwork, inlaid vase or similar classical motif. Adam preferred gilt work usually on a soft wood and hepplewhite usually used mahogany. It was not until the late 17 th Century that dressing mirrors became free standing. To begin with they were made of silver or silver gilt with trestle.
Expert Antique Dealers Advice
During the latter half of the s Venetian and Parisian craftsmen supplied beautifully decorated toilet mirrors. In the early s many antique dressing tables were designed with collapsible mirrors fitted into the tops of the tables, and this was also seen in some antique chests of drawers. By the early s toilet mirrors had become sturdier in construction, and most were standing on plinth bases which have small drawers, the best were serpentine fronted.
The mirrors were usually rectangular and it was not until the s that oval dressing mirrors became available. Antique cheval mirrors or also known as standing dressing mirrors were first made in Paris. By the s large plates of glass could be cast, and the free standing mirror known as the antique cheval mirror became very popular.
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Foxing is a term when the silvering in antique mirrors goes misty and sometimes looks bitty. So should you replace it or leave it? If the foxing is not too bad then I would leave it as it adds to the charm and character of the mirror, but if it is so bad that you cannot see your reflection properly then it might be worth re slivering it. This is a very time consuming technique and not many people do this anymore, but there are people who specialise in antique mirrors who can restore them for you. If you want to care for your antique mirrors correctly, there are several things you can do.
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If the silver backing of an antique mirror has deteriorated we call that foxing in the trade , repair should not be attempted until investigation have been done, as any restoration can devalue the piece especially on very early examples. First check with an expert if repairing the silver will de value the piece as some collectors will only buy with the original silver.
There are three traditional methods used to clean the fronts of mirrors. The first is to wipe the glass with a lint free linen cloth moistened with methylated spirits. The second is to wipe the glass with a lint free cloth which has been wrung out in lukewarm water to which a few drops of ammonia have been added.
Lastly you can lightly moisten a lint free cloth with paraffin and wipe the glass. This last method works well, but leaves a small of paraffin in the air for some time. Whichever method is chosen, it is essential to avoid and moisture getting behind the glass, as this will cause further deterioration of the silvering. Remember it is nice to see some foxing in the mirror as this adds to the character of the piece and I recommend you should never replace the old glass.