MIRRORS AND THEIR HISTORY
Both decorative and practical, mirrors nave fulfilled an
important role since the second half of the 17th century. In
the 17th and 18th centuries, frames were either inlaid with
marquetry, or elaborately carved or gilded, with designs
ranging from the grandeur of the baroque to the more fluid
rococo carvings perhaps best encapsulated by Thomas
Chippendale. In the 19tn century, frames made from plaster on
a wire base were common. Known as composition frames, they can
be attractive, but are frequently damaged as the plaster chips
glassmakers used a system which allowed them to make fairly
large plates of glass; until the 1770s when the French method
was adopted in England and America. Mirrors made in those
countries consisted of two or more small plates side by side.
In the 18th century, glass was fairly thin, and the reflection
obtained was darker than that given by the thicker glass
plates that became common with 19th-century antique mirrors. The
reflection is caused by lining the rolled glass with silver
foil (mercury-coated tin foil).
period mirror styles are still reproduced today, including the
early 19th century bull's-eye-shaped convex mirror, the gilded
frame of which is often surmounted by an eagle; modern mirror
glass, however, is much thinner than that which it tries to
Is My Antique Mirror Valuable?
If the antique mirror
has wood framing containing screws, remove one screw in some
inconspicuous spot. Old antique screws are homemade and will
have irregular widths between the spirals, running the whole
length of the shaft. The slot in the head may even be
off-center. New screws have very evenly spaced threads.
If the frame is veneer,
understand that on antique furniture veneers were of thick and
somewhat irregular widths, rather like home-sliced bread.
Modern veneers are thin, with every slice exactly the same
Until 1800, all the antique
mirror glass in America was imported. Antique glass is thin
(less than 1/8 inch thick), variably wavy, and somewhat gray in
color. To determine if a piece of mirror is old, hold the tip
of a key to the glass. The closer the tip of the reflected
Image IS to the tip of the actual key, the more likely it is
that the glass is old.
Antique Glass (in general):
Anything made of glass that is old enough, rare enough, in demand (antique) likely has some value. Glass has always had a tendency to get broken thus older collectible and antique glassware pieces occasionally disappear -- including "mirrors".