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Repairing Antique Mirrors: From Glass Chips To Resilvering To Frames

by Rasmus Koskinen

Antique mirrors are often quite ornate and can be very valuable. However, they tend to be a little more fragile than modern mirrors because of the older glass construction processes. If you recently damaged an antique mirror and would like it fixed, glass repair shops can help. From glass chips to resilvering, here is what you can expect.

Repairing Chips and Cracks

Whenever possible, try to save the chips or slivers of glass that have broken off your antique mirror. These little bits can help the glass experts determine what the glass is comprised of and find glass with an exact or similar composition for the repair. Since glass is not just bits of sand heated into liquid form and cooled, but also involves certain other chemicals that cause the glass to have very slight variations in color, transparency and opacity, the glass experts can figure out what your antique mirror is made of. With that bit of knowledge in hand, they can begin to heat-fuse the broken pieces or cracks back together and recreate a hot-melted, "filler" glass to fill in where the chips of glass are missing.


All mirrors are backed with a reflective substance, otherwise a mirror could not reflect images at all (it would just be clear glass). If your antique mirror needs to be resilvered, the first thing the glass experts will do is determine if the original backing is made of mercury, which was very common in mirrors up to the start of the nineteenth century. This makes their job a little more dangerous, since mercury is highly toxic.

They may need to remove the antique silvering entirely and recoat the mirror's back surface with the modern silvering equivalent, or coat the entire back of the mirror with the less-toxic sputtering aluminum. If they choose to coat the entire back without removing the mercury coat, it will protect them against the effects of the mercury and protect you and anyone else that comes into contact with the mirror. Additionally, they will coat the backs of any of the pieces of mirror that they replaced, cut to fit, or heat-fused into areas of the mirror that were missing glass. 

Reframing Your Antique Mirror

In the event that you also damaged the frame of your antique mirror, some glass repair shops can also fix and/or replace the frame for you. Most people choose to have the frame repaired, since it is part of the antique mirror's original value and charm. If you decide instead to replace the frame, these shops carry a variety of frames for your mirror and frames for other glass panels and specialty windows. To learn more, speak with a company like Action Glass.