Antique mirrors is a diverse category. We find mirrors in England, but also from France and other continental European countries and import them to our antique furniture store in Atlanta, GA. Many of the English antique mirrors we find have Jacobean style oak frames, and are a smaller size, good for accent mirrors. The larger mirrors tend to be from the continent.
Features of Antique Mirrors
An antique mirror should have a silver backing on the back side of the glass. This silver backing is the reflective surface of the mirror. Because it is actual silver on the glass it can, over time, tarnish or wear. Most antique mirrors will have small spots of tarnish here and there. This is called “spotting” and varies in severity depending on the quality of the mirror and the elements it has been exposed to.
You can tell if a mirror has a silvered back or if it is a more modern surface with a reflective coating on the top by doing a fingernail test. Simply touch a fingernail to the glass. There should be a small gap between your nail and the reflection due to the distance the silvering is from the actual top of the glass. If the reflection and your nail touch it is a new mirror.
Another feature of antique mirrors is a “beveled edge.” This is where the perimeter of the mirror slopes down towards the edge of the mirror creating a nice, visual border to the glass. Beveled edges are still done today on higher quality pieces.