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Antique mirrors – what to look for and how to choose one


Without doubt, an antique mirror is the perfect finishing touch for any luxury interior, but a well-chosen example will also elevate a more modest and contemporary space to a different level, making it chic, sophisticated and on trend.

Features of an antique mirror

Lots of companies today offer an ‘antiquing’ service for mirrors, where they will artificially age a modern piece. When searching for antique mirrors for sale, however, there are features to look out for that will help you decide if you are looking at a genuine antique mirror or a modern one that has undergone a makeover!

Antique mirror frames

Even the most well-preserved antique will show signs of age, which often adds to its charm and appeal, so beware the perfect frame! Signs of authenticity include natural darkening of a wood frame, staining and chipping. It is worth noting here also, that antique mirrors can feature backs made from wood.

Antique mirror screws

An antique mirror will not be held together with modern screws so examine the screws closely. A genuine antique screw will be handmade and hence irregular in shape and the screwdriver slot at the top may be off centre. Check too the spirals around the screw which will be perfectly spaced in a machined screw but uneven in an antique. This all being said, the screws may have been replaced recently so in these cases, always check with the seller.

Antique mirror glass

The glass in an antique mirror is the best indicator of age. Look for bubbling which will be absent in modern mirrors, or a slightly wavy surface. There may also be cloudy spots or greying/yellowing on the inside surface of the glass. This is oxidisation which occurs over time as the silver or mercury backing of the mirror breaks down. Any mottling should not be uniform and where it is, this may be a sign that the mirror has been artificially aged. The colour of the glass may have become grey or yellow in tone with age; colourless glass indicates a modern mirror or a replacement. Antique glass is thicker than modern glass but unless you can access the glass, this can be difficult to judge. However, take an item such as a key and place the tip up against the mirror’s surface. There will be distance between it and its reflection if the glass is thick, whereas the two will appear to be touching in a modern mirror.

Antique mirror detailing

They say the devil’s in the detailing so look closely at how the frame of the mirror has been finished. An antique frame will have been finished by hand so a precise and uniform application may indicate a modern mirror.

How do I choose an antique mirror?

Beyond its practical use, an antique mirror will add instant luxury, glamour and elegance to any space, so think about the function the mirror will play. If you are decorating a naturally dark or gloomy space, a wall mirror 

will open it up and add instant brightness, while at the same time in a smaller room, it will give the illusion of space.

For maximum impact, group mirrors together; for boutique hotels or any interior with a large expanse of wall, for example a commercial property, a collection of mirrors creates a statement feature and is the perfect way to fill a big space.  

As with all antique purchases, be ruled by your heart and your budget and the setting you are buying for, and always buy from reputable dealers whose items can be trusted to be authentic. At Hemswell Antique Centres, our dealers have a wide choice of antique mirrors, from wall mirrors to hand-held mirrors and dressing table mirrors to cheval mirrors.

If you are decorating a commercial premise, looking for several pieces, or are buying from overseas and are unable to visit us in person, we offer live virtual shopping tours. This service has been used by discerning clients across the world who are accompanied by our Managing Director on a video tour of pieces of interest. Each piece is presented to the client in detail and the finer points of the piece are discussed. Once your transactions have been completed, we can also help with all your shipping requirements, whatever the size of consignment. For more information about this exclusive service, please contact us today.

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