I think I have shared before that I have a retail space called The Lemon Tree, which is located in the Vintage Mercantile in downtown Denison, Texas. I carry antiques, gifts, home, and holiday decor. At least once a week, I have someone approach me about finding them an antique mirror. I'm accustomed to shoppers wanting a vintage frame, but recently I have had many requests for the vintage or old glass mirrors. Whenever I am lucky enough to find one, I buy it, as vintage mirrors are currently in high demand. There are lots of beautiful reproduction mirrors on the market, but when someone requests a mirror with the old glass, it's a clear indicator they want an authentic antique and not a reproduction.
Having said all that, I thought I would share what little knowledge I have about what sets old mirrors apart from the new. Once you know the telling elements, you can easily spot the gems, and hopefully, score one for yourself.
Glass- The glass is typically the main factor in determining the age of a mirror, which was originally referred to as a looking glass. True antique mirrors have a backing of silver mercury, which will oxidize over time, making cloudy spots on the mirror's surface and around the edges. Also, the antique glass will often have a yellow or gray cast to it.
Weight- The thickness and weight of the mirror are also telling elements when it comes to spotting a true antique. Modern-day mirrors use much thinner and lighter glass than old mirrors. The mirrors below are heavy, each weighing between 10-20 pounds each.
Construction- It goes without saying, that the frame itself is an identifying feature. There are lots of different styles from different time periods, but how the glass and frame are attached is telling. Are they attached by shiny, new screws, or does the technique look homemade and inconsistent like the ones below?
Imperfections- You will most likely not ever find an authentic antique mirror free of imperfections in either the frame or the glass. If it's flawless, most likely it is machine-made like the two below.
The next three are much older and heavier. The last mirror has a heavy gray or cloudy cast that I mentioned earlier.
I have found the best place to look for antique mirrors is at estate sales, antique stores, Craigslist, or Facebook Marketplace. You can find them in a variety of different styles, sizes, and prices. For me, Facebook Marketplace has been the best source when it comes to price. If you are interested in seeing some of my marketplace finds and why I like shopping it, you can do so here.
If you have or find a new mirror, and you are interested in making the glass look old, there are lots of tutorials on Pinterest with step by step instructions. While I have not tried the different techniques, I have confidence in the following ones that I researched.
Bless'er House- this one uses a film
Shine Your Light Blog- technique can also be used on lamps, etc.
Overall authentic antique mirrors are not hard to find unless you are looking for a specific style or size. If and when you are on the hunt for one, use these hints to help you distinguish authentic from reproduction.
Enjoy the remainder of your week!