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Reflecting on Your Collecting: Antique Hand Mirrors


I recall the first antique hand mirror I ever bought. It was on vacation in Maine, on a shelf at a ‘thrift store. This lovely mirror just spoke to me – I was enthralled. Those wonderful roses, Art Nouveau detailing, the graceful handle. And it was marked “Empire Art Silver.”

The lady came over and said, “what a shame, the mirror is really awful!” I turned it over, and for the first time noticed that it did have shadowing and a lot of wear. But did I care? Absolutely not – The frame was the thrill!

Since that time, about 8 years ago, I have added numerous hand mirrors to my collection. Some are dated – 1904, 1909, etcetera. One of my favorites is round with a lot of detailing, scrolls, flowers and an open handle.

This one is Sterling Silver. It also has a rather poor mirror, a little dent here and there. Another favorite is square and very, very ornate. I continued the search, but many I desired were out of my price-range. Found a few at auctions, others at yard sales or estate sales.

I especially like to find them with a monogram. I know, I know, that tends to decrease the value of silver items such as tableware. But I don’t mind! I know that there was once a little girl, teenager or matronly lady staring into their mirror. Perhaps putting makeup on or just checking their hair before the special occasion; a wedding, big dance or anniversary party. That just makes the mirrors feel special to me. And if it has an initial of a loved one, that makes it even better. My mom’s name was Ruth and the ones with “Rs” remind me of her.

I had a very delightful thing happen a while back. I was at a garage sale and saw a silver mirror with a voluptuous lady with long flowing hair. Lots of roses, lovely repousse. I asked the gent “how much for this?” His response was “no charge, just take it, it has no mirror.” I gladly scooped it up and with my purchases, skipped to the car. (As my kids will tell you, I am not an expert skipper, and people were actually gawking.)

You see, it did not bother me one iota that this had no mirror. I hang them on the wall in my bedroom and no one else knows the little ‘secret.’

Although my darling husband is very accommodating and has let me have a large wall for this display, we will soon be out of room so I have limited my purchases to only sterling silver ones. One of my top three is an Art Nouveau mirror with wonderful flowers and another features a 3-dimensional lady with a flower in her hair and a lily!

While I have said I will only collect silver mirrors, I did find a ‘must-have’ one that is more brass than not. But I could not pass on it! This one is unusual since it has a peacock at the top, a lady with a fan, a snake and several dragons. Now who could resist? Not me!

I know I am hooked – but I just don’t ‘reflect’ on my addiction too long. I enjoy them, as do all who view them!


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Val Ubell Hi, you lucky girl - sounds like a truly elegant mirror. Hard to find sometimes, they are often around the rim or at the part where the mirror joins the handle. They are not always marked, however. You'd think they'd want to get credit for them! Also, if it is silver plate, they are sometimes not marked. Wish I could be more of a help. Your interest in CQ is appreciated. Val June 8th, 2010 at 8:13 AM

Jasmine Deel My husband and I discovered the Art Nouveau hand mirror in our attic. Exactly the same mirror as you have in the first picture. It's beautiful but the mirror in it is distorted, I guess from being in an attic. I was wondering if you knew if the mirror could be replaced without destroying the frame? August 14th, 2010 at 1:38 PM

louise hi, i have a hand mirror which looks very old, it is very small and has a real moth incased in the back. I have been told that it is very old, i think it is brass with roses carved into the handle, on the back, the moth is layed over shiny gold hairlike strands and has real pink corn flowers and fern next to it. it has a glass dome covering the moth and flowers. It is truly stunning. I have not been able to locate it anywhere on any sites. I have been searching for months but found nothing. Has anyone ever seen anything that matches the discription. The moth is definately real and preserved and it must have taken such a long time to make such a small mirror as the detail is spectacular. Although it looks very old it is in perfect condition with no marks at all. All ideas on where to search for it would be much appreciated. thanks. October 4th, 2010 at 8:49 AM

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