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Your Guide to Buying an Antique Art Deco Mirror

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Your Guide to Buying an Antique Art Deco Mirror
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Your Guide to Buying an Antique Art Deco Mirror

History of Mirrors

The first manufactured mirrors date back approximately eight thousand years and were made from polished rocks, such as obsidian. Many of the early designs from Ancient China, South America and Egypt were later made from metals that were polished to give a reflection, but it wasn’t until during the first century AD that metal-coated glass mirrors were invented. Though the functions of these designs were the same as the mirrors of today, the reflective properties of metal did not enable easy viewing of reflections in low light. It was Venetian manufacturers in the sixteenth century that created the plate glass mirror that we know today, and these were backed by mercury that offered almost perfect reflective properties. Throughout the following centuries, mirrors were decorated and ornately designed to complement home décor, and by the end of the First World War the arrival of the Art Deco movement shaped their design even further.

Discover Antique Art Deco Mirrors

Antique Art Deco mirrors are often representative of the wider Art Deco movement. Embracing many areas of design, but especially home décor, Art Deco designs employ the use of strong geometric shapes as opposed to the overly ornate work of the Victorian era. Taking its name from the French Arts Décoratifs, the movement is thought to have begun in Paris in 1925, and ended around two decades later with the Second World War. With minimal composition and a strict adherence to symmetry, the mirrors are distinctive in their design, and as a result of the booming machine age, many are sleek and made from a range of materials, displaying both power and technological advancement.

While the Art Deco movement continued until World War II, it is important for a prospective buyer to understand what it is that makes any second hand item an antique. Many professionals consider pre-1930 to be of antique age, which means that the entire Art Deco timeline does not necessarily fit into the antique category. Though several definitions of the term may be applied, it is important to note that just because a mirror is Art Deco, does not automatically define it as antique.

Materials Used in Antique Art Deco Mirrors

While glass and metal make up an antique mirror’s reflective properties, Art Deco designs had frames that were made from a selection of distinctive materials.

Part

Description

Wrought Iron

A tough and easily welded iron alloy

Wood

Various species including mahogany, ebony and rosewood

Chrome

Alloy of the element chromium that offers an attractive, shiny finish and is often applied as a thin coat around another metal.

Bronze

A strong and hard metal alloy consisting of copper and tin

Types of Antique Art Deco Mirrors

Below are some of the types of antique mirrors that a buyer may find when browsing an Art Deco selection.

Type

Description

Advantages

Considerations

Mantel Mirror

Large flat mirror designed to be hung or rested on a mantel.

Can add a decorative functionality to a room.

Can occupy most of a mantel’s space.

Wall Mirror

A mirror with the ability to be hung on flat surfaces such as walls or doors.

Can be hung in the exact position that suits the user.

Can vary in size from face-only to full-body length.

Hand Mirror

A small mirror with a handle.

Compact and manoeuvrable.

Only gives a small area of reflection.

Make-up Mirror

Smaller than the hand mirror, often in a hinged case.

Can be placed in a bag or purse for transportation.

Too small for most purposes other than make-up application.

Dressing Table Mirror

Designed to rest on a dressing table, often giving several reflections.

User can see their appearance sitting down and from several angles.

Requires a dressing table to function properly.

Factors to Consider When Buying an Antique Art Deco Mirror

Before deciding on an antique Art Deco mirror, there are some further factors to consider.

  • Glass Refitting – The frame of an antique Art Deco mirror is its primary source of value, however, a buyer should also see if the state of the glass is original or replaced, as this can affect both value and functionality.
  • Rust – Antique iron and bronze are both susceptible to corrosion that can spread without being remedied. A buyer should make sure to check the state of all metal mirror components.
  • Reproductions – Mirrors that are manufactured in modern Art Deco ‘style’ are not considered as original Art Deco pieces or antiques.

Typical Features of Antique Art Deco Mirrors

1. Scenario Depiction

Antique Art Deco mirrors will often have a scene of a man or a woman adorning the mirror. These figures are often minimally clothed or naked, and accompanied by wild animals and wilderness.

2. Etching

Glass areas of an antique Art Deco piece can often have etched patters. This technique is generally used on the edges of the mirror so as not to obscure the reflection.

3. Art Deco ‘Fan’

An open fan is a common motif in Art Deco design. With strong geometric symmetry and simplicity, the fan can extend to the shape of the mirror or the shape of small decorations that adorn it.

4. Bevelling

The glass used in Art Deco mirrors is often sloped on the edges in a style known as ‘bevelling.’ Indentations reminiscent of a shell can also sometimes be a feature, and this is called ‘scalloping.’

5. Peach Glass

This is commonly found on antique Art Deco mirrors and is considered somewhere in between red and pink in its shade.

6. Triptychs

Antique Art Deco mirrors can come with two extra extensions that allow a slight side angle to be reflected for the user.

7. Silver and Gold Leaf

Gold and silver can be hammered extremely flat and are often applied as a decorative coat to antique Art Deco mirrors.

How to Care for Antique Art Deco Mirrors

A buyer can ensure that they help keep their antique mirror in good condition by noting a few simple points.

  • Metal elements do not always require cleaning, if they have an authentic patina built up over the years. This patina can potentially add to the authenticity of a piece and protect it from further damage.
  • When cleaning glass, use warm water and a fine cloth, avoiding any ammonia and vinegar in cleaning agents.
  • Cleaning substances should be placed on a cloth first, never applied directly to the mirror.
  • If noticing brighter patches of colour within the patina of bronzed framing, take the mirror to an antique professional, as it may be indicative of corrosive ‘bronze disease.’
  • Wooden antique frames should not be kept near fires or placed in direct sunlight as it may damage the exterior.
     

Antique Art Deco Mirror Manufacturers

Here is a brief list of some of the more popular mirror manufacturers during the Art Deco period.

  • Tiffany
  • Walker and Hall
  • Brandt
  • Bach
  • Dufrene
  • Piguet
  • Subes

Finding Antique Art Deco Mirrors on eBay

Once you determine the type of antique Art Deco Mirror you want to purchase, visit the Antiques portal on eBay, click on Art Deco and start searching item listings. The Categories list on the left-hand side of the eBay page helps to narrow the search.

Searching forAntiqueArt Deco Mirrorson eBay

Search eBay listing titles for specific words when shopping for antique Art Deco mirrors. For example, to find an antique bronze mantel mirror, type ‘Antique Bronze Mantel Mirror’ into the search box, and then click the Advanced button to customise the results. Also visit eBay’s Search Tipspage for more advice on searching for antique Art Deco mirrors with keywords. If you can’t find the exact mirror you want, try shopping eBay Stores.

Conclusion

The purchase of an antique mirror can enhance almost any room’s décor, and the unique style of the Art Deco movement can add both historical and monetary value. Before deciding which antique mirror is right, it can be advisable to take into consideration the above-mentioned points in order to make your decision clear and simple. Factors such as the definition of an antique, the materials commonly used for Art Deco construction, the types of mirrors available on the antique market, and simple tips for antique maintenance, can all affect a purchasing decision. Once you have collected this information, you can buy an antique Art Deco mirror safely and securely on eBay.

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