Sometimes, the look of an old mirror with hand beveled edges is enhanced with discoloration. Among some groups it is desired so that it appears unique (mirror re-silvering). It naturally happens when an oxidizing agent (usually water, sometimes a cleaner) gets to the reflective metal. Usually the metal is silver, but on some of the really old mirrors it is mercury. Though there are companies out there who make “Antiqued” mirrors (see the picture to the left). So if that mirror is placed on an old piece of furniture, it may very well add character to the piece.
But it is not as desirable when that mirror is fairly new and doesn’t have custom edge work. Nor when it is a plain mirror that is attached to the wall in your bathroom! You want it free of any blemishes around the edge. Most people like to have a clear unhindered reflection.
So what to do?
Some people take the mirror to have those portions cut off. Others might get a brand new mirror if it is really bad, or they have to keep that same size mirror. Some cover it up with beveled mirror strips or a stuck on frame hiding the problem for a while longer.
And then there is getting the mirror re-silvering. Sounds like a good idea! You can save the glass and don’t have to get a brand new mirror cut and installed. Now to find a company that does that sort of work… Easier to do now if you know how to use google. But then the price hits you like a right cross. In most cases it is expensive!
Mirror Re-silvering Guide
Re-silvering a mirror normally requires someone to strip the entire mirrored portion from the glass. The process of stripping requires the normally painted back to be taken off with paint remover that can be used on glass. Then the silver has to be stripped from the glass with nitric acid, of course proper safety wear is a must during this stage. After the glass has been stripped of the paint and metal you will have to polish the glass to get rid of the small pits that have happened during the acid wash. After it is nice and polished you will take a mixture of fluid and silver and apply it to the glass. After that dries, you will add the paint to it to help guard it against any potential scratches that might occur. And that is the process of re-silvering a mirror!
SO! While the chemicals required are not hard to get, they require special storage and practices to be used at a place of business. Many glass shops do not want to deal with maintaining the chemicals (which can be quite hazardous) in their shops, or having to train their technicians how to safely handle acid. There is already a lot of safety practices to remember when dealing with glass. Dealing with a glass break/ spill is a matter of sweeping the shards up. Having acid spill in your shop can be quite troublesome to clean up. Some cities also have special ordinances that have to be followed by businesses in that area. And to top it all off, there is also no guarantee that the glass will not break during the process either. So finding a good glass shop that does this sort of work might be an adventure all its own. Google is one way to look, though I would suggest calling your local glass shop. They have probably been asked before and know of the companies that re-silver mirrors.
Do it Yourself
Still, there are “Do it Yourself” kits that are floating around on the internet out there that you can try out. I have no experience using them or actually re-silvering a mirror, though I have seen videos on how it is done. I also stayed at a Holiday Inn once. (If you get that then we both watch to much TV!)
So while re-silvering a mirror is possible, in some cases is is cheaper and faster to get a brand new mirror cut and installed. If the mirror has sentimental value, or has some custom edge work and hard to replicate beveling, then it might be worth the time and cost to get it redone. Though whether you take it to a shop or do it yourself is a choice for you to answer!
Until next time!