Antique Mirrors: A Buyers Guide

Wednesday 21st December 2022 - Cara Bentham


Antique Mirrors: A Buyers Guide

We reflect on the older reflections.

Antique mirrors are a hugely popular item because they are attractive and collectable as an investment piece and sought after as a desirable home décor item. They look great in various interiors, from classic to modern design schemes and are functional too. Our buyer's guide to antique mirrors will help you choose the right one for your home. 

When looking for an antique mirror, it's easy to be duped by modern pieces made to look antique or by those with the term 'antique' used to describe a style rather than a genuine antique. Many companies even offer services where they take a contemporary mirror and artificially age it to make it look antique. Keep your wits about you when searching for genuine antique mirrors! 


When it comes to assessing the authenticity of an antique mirror, the glass is often the best indicator of age. The glass on antique mirrors typically has a slightly wavy surface or bubbling, which will not be the case with a modern mirror. You may also see a greying or yellowing on the inside surface of the glass of an antique mirror or perhaps some cloudy spots. These are caused by oxidation occurring over time when an antique mirror's mercury or silver backing begins to break down. 

When a mirror is artificially aged, you might see mottling that is uniform in appearance. This wouldn't be the case with a genuine antique mirror; colourless glass is another indication of a modern mirror. 

Modern glass is thinner than antique glass. Of course, this can be difficult to gauge without seeing the glass outside of the frame. A good trick is to take a small item, such as a key and put the tip against the mirror's surface. If there is a distance between it and its reflection, this indicates that the glass is thick. If the two appear to be touching, that's a good indicator that you are looking at a modern mirror. 


Examining the screws of a mirror closely can quickly reveal whether a mirror is a genuine antique. A mirror with modern screws is likely to be a modern one. Genuine antique screws are handmade and irregular in shape, and the screwdriver slot is likely to be off-centre. The spirals around an antique screw will not be perfectly shaped like a mass-produced factory screw but instead uneven. 

Of course, there is a chance the screws of an antique mirror have been replaced, so be sure to check with the seller and consider this factor alongside others for a truly accurate picture. 


A perfect-looking frame is often a tell-tale sign of a fake. Even the most well-preserved antique mirror frames will show some signs of age. This often adds to the appeal and charm of an antique mirror and shouldn't serve as a deterrent when looking to buy. When it comes to antique mirror frames, signs of authenticity include chipping, staining and darkening of a wooden frame. It's also common for antique mirrors to have backs made from wood. 

As with other features, such as the screws, the detailing of an antique mirror frame can be a tell-tale sign of authenticity. Antique frames were finished by hand, meaning they have more uniqueness and character. The detailing may be uneven, or there may be slight errors or variations in patterns in places. Uniform and precise detailing mean that a frame is modern and not antique. 

How to choose an antique mirror

When looking to buy an antique mirror, consider its purpose. Is it an investment piece or something to enhance your interior space? Is it an isolated buy or part of a collection? Antique mirrors look fabulous when displayed in groups as a feature piece, especially in larger rooms.

Consider the size of the space you have available and the colour scheme; determine your budget before buying so you can be sure to get the most for your money.

Always buy from a reputable provider. Auctions are a great place to source antique mirrors as they will have been assessed and valued by the auction house holding the sale, and this gives you extra assurance that you are buying a genuine antique mirror. 

Following these tips will help ensure you don't get duped by fakes. If you're looking for the perfect antique mirror, why not check out the ones available in our upcoming lots? You can do this here, and if you find one you like, register to bid live from the comfort of your home.