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How to Restore Antique Mirror Glass

Posted - 01/09/2012

As John Keats once said, "a thing of beauty is a joy forever." Antiques are things of great beauty, but if you have an antique mirror and want it to be a joy forever, you will have to keep it in good condition. The back of glass on antique mirrors is made of thin silver that flakes off over time, but if you have a mirror that is in good condition, it is possible to restore it as close as possible to its original condition. After you learn the steps it takes to restore antique mirror glass, you can decide whether you think you are capable of doing so yourself or if you are more comfortable having a professional do it. If you choose to do it yourself, make sure you are not risking diminishing the value of the piece.

Remove the glass from the frame with a screwdriver. Take the pitch off the back of the mirror and save it for later. Scrape off the silver and start cleaning the back. To recreate the back of the mirror, heat up a cup of distilled water and a teaspoon of unflavored gelatin granules. Stir with a paintbrush until the gelatin dissolves. Keep it on a low heat at all times. Use the paintbrush to clean the surface and generate static electricity. Keeping the mirror at a downward angle, lay the silver leaf in rows making sure they overlap by 1/8”. Let it dry for an hour, then apply a clear acrylic coat to it and dry it overnight. To replace the pitch, melt it in a pan and carefully pour it into the frame. Always make sure to wear protective face masks, eye gear and gloves.
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