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Reflections on Antique Mirrors

Updated: Mar 21

Three mirrors with text Reflections on Antique Mirrors

An antique mirror can be a beautiful addition to any home décor. Despite being over 100 years old, as the definition of antique requires, a mirror is a timeless accessory in any interior design. The beauty of an antique mirror tells more than the story of the person gazing into it – the piece itself speaks volumes.

Mirrors may seem commonplace in our day-to-day lives – in fact, we look at them every day without giving them much thought. However, mirrors have a surprisingly rich history, and the older the mirror, the more fascinating the story becomes. Whatever their history may be, antique mirrors are some of the most sought-after artifacts on the market today.

Green painted dresser with antique mirror

Antique mirrors make interesting home décor. Whether it’s hung at the door for a last-minute appearance check as you leave or in a small study to make the room seem larger, a mirror is essential for design and function. Add drawers, and now you have an organizational piece. Antique mirrors bring style to any room but knowing what to look for in this accessory is the key to any buying decision.

What is an Antique Mirror?

People have been using mirrors in various forms and shapes for around 8,000 years. An antique mirror would be one of those treasured heirlooms that can be dated as at least 100 years old. While mirrors are fragile, they were often well-cared for as valued possessions (nobody wants seven years of bad luck, after all!), so we have antique mirrors from as far back as the 17th century still in circulation today.

Mirrors have changed over the centuries. Antique mirrors are commonly made of glass coated with silver, gold, or chrome. From “magical looking glasses” to the bejeweled luxury framed mirrors of royalty and the rich, mirrors have changed in style and form to match the desired status symbol of each period. Whether it is reserved and simple or ornate and carved, an antique mirror is a direct reflection of its time.

Antique mall booth with mirrors and fireplace mantel

Types of Antique Mirrors

1. Dressing mirror or floor mirror

2. Hand-held mirror

3. Toilet Mirror

4. Vanity tray mirror

5. Wall mirror

1. An antique floor mirror is also called a dressing mirror.

The first full-length mirror of all time, the floor mirror was first available in the 1700s. They were made to be free-standing after a new crafting process allowed glassmakers to craft larger glass mirrors. These first mirrors allowed people to see their reflection from head to toe, but more recent, downsized versions of the antique mirror allow for mounting on a wall or dresser.

2. In a late-1800s Victorian home, a hand mirror in every bedroom was a must.

The earliest version of the hand-held mirror was made of of copper and tin alloys and polished until a high shine and reflection could be seen. Those mirrors evolved when Venetian skilled glass artists created a tin-mercury amalgam that made a reflective surface attached to a handle. Ultimately, mirrors were made of hand-cut and beveled glass set in silver, brass, or silverplate. Artists in France and Germany also designed very popular hand mirrors with hand-painted porcelain backs.

3. Antique toilet mirrors were the first adjustable mirrors.

These antique mirrors were designed to be placed on a dresser or toilet table to serve as a looking glass. The small, framed mirror was on a stand or supporting brackets, allowing the mirror’s viewing height to be adjusted to the preference of the owner. Earlier Georgian and Victorian period antique mirrors had simple, turned posts, while the mid-19th-century designs became more elaborate.

4. A vanity tray mirror is a sought-after home décor accessory.

Vintage mirrored tray

This antique mirror is also known as a dresser tray, perfume tray, or mirrored plateau. This tray with a mirrored surface was designed to hold and display women’s fine perfumes. Very popular during Victorian times, they often were a statement centerpiece on the dining room table.

5. Long, decorative wall mirrors were not created until the 1700s.

An antique mirror designed to hang on the wall became very popular in the 1700s. Prior to that, glass makers didn’t have the ability to make the large piece of glass necessary for a mirror of that size. They evolved to include a number of shapes, sizes, and materials and enjoyed great popularity then and now for their unique design and ability to see a reflection from head to toe.

What Should I Look for When Buying an Antique Mirror?

There are specific features to look for, like original glass, signs of damage, and a stamp or logo, when you are about to spend hard-earned money on an antique mirror. It helps to be informed about what you are looking for or looking at, but it also helps to shop at a well-known antique mall with knowledgeable vendors. If they don’t have the item you are looking for, they most likely know someone who does.

Tips for Buying an Antique Mirror

  • Check for signs the glass is original or has been replaced

  • Look at the back for an engraved stamp or logo

  • Check for signs of aging, scratches, or chips

  • Do your research

  • Buy from a reputable dealer

Antique hall bench with mirror

Antique mirrors are a classic in the world of home décor. They add sophisticated flair while visually doubling the space of any room, all while adding brightness and light. Hang an antique mirror over a fireplace or piano to highlight the unique design of their period, or accentuate a modern piece with an antique mirror. From old-world style to a chic modern feel, nothing creates an eclectic vibe quite like the right antique mirror.

Choose your antique mirror wisely. True antiques are rare and, therefore very valuable. Even an unusual mirror in fairly good condition can get a good price, so stay open to interesting design details that catch your eye. Some wear and oxidation on antique mirrors are normal, but heavily mottled glass will lower the value. This is where a reputable dealer is vital.

America’s Antique Mall is renowned for friendly and knowledgeable vendors. Explore our family of spacious antique malls when you want to add antiques, vintage items, or even the latest trendy pieces to your personal collections or home décor. We want to put a smile on your face every time you treasure hunt for that one-of-a-kind item.

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