Mirrors are an essential part of our daily lives.
From the moment we wake up in the morning until we go to bed at night, we interact with mirrors in a variety of ways. While we may often take them for granted, it is not hard to see why mirrors are incredibly important.
First and foremost, mirrors allow us to see ourselves. Whether we are getting ready for the day, fixing our hair, or applying makeup, mirrors allow us to take a closer look at ourselves and make sure we are presenting ourselves the way we want to be seen. Without mirrors, we would have to rely on others to tell us how we look, which could be inconvenient, time-consuming, and severely impact our self-image, self-confidence, and overall well-being.
Hence, it is no surprise that we have treasured mirrors—and mirror-like precursory contraptions—and put intense effort into their construction throughout history.
One result of this prolonged effort throughout history is the presence today of well-crafted antique pieces from the past that are now highly valued by collectors everywhere, examples of which appear on our list of most valuable antique mirrors.
A major reason why antique mirrors are important is because of their craftsmanship. They were often crafted by skilled artisans using traditional techniques and high-quality materials. As a result, they often pack superior aesthetics and a distinct ornamental appeal, are more durable and are of higher quality than modern mirrors.
Furthermore, these mirrors are often crafted with intricate details and ornate frames, which are no longer commonly found in modern mirrors. Their unique designs add elegance and style to any space and can serve as a statement piece or focal point in a room. Antique mirrors can be a reflection of personal style and taste, as well as a symbol of sophistication and refinement.
Many of the best antique mirrors were designed both structurally and aesthetically to last for generations and withstand the test of time.
Antique mirrors can also be a valuable investment and can hold sentimental value for families.
If properly cared for, antique mirrors can retain their value and even appreciate in worth over time. They are a wise financial choice for collectors and investors who understand their historical and aesthetic importance. Owning an antique mirror can be a rewarding investment that appreciates over time while also offering a unique and beautiful piece of history.
Aside from their potential monetary value, antique mirrors may also have sentimental value for some people. They may have been passed down through generations of a family or may have been purchased during a memorable trip or event. These mirrors can then hold emotional significance and be a meaningful part of a person’s personal history. Owning such antique mirrors can be a way to connect with one’s family history and personal legacy.
However, antique mirrors are more than just decorative pieces, as they offer a glimpse into the past and can hold significant historical and emotional value. These mirrors can be traced back to different time periods and have resultant peculiar design elements that can add beauty and elegance to any space.
History of Antique Mirrors
Mirrors have a rich and fascinating history that spans over thousands of years. From their early use as reflective surfaces made from natural materials to the modern mirrors that we use today, the history of mirrors is a testament to human ingenuity and creativity.
The earliest known mirrors were made of polished stone, such as obsidian or polished metal, such as copper, bronze, and gold.
These mirrors were often used in ritual and ceremonial contexts by ancient civilizations such as the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. In Egypt, mirrors made of polished metal were used in the tombs of pharaohs, while in Greece, bronze mirrors were used for both personal grooming and as offerings to the gods.
The use of glass in mirrors dates back to the 1st century AD when the Romans began using a type of glass called “Alexandrian glass” to create small, reflective disks. These disks were used for personal grooming and as decorative objects.
The Romans also used polished silver as mirrors, which were often backed with gold leaf to improve their reflective quality.
During the Middle Ages, mirrors continued to be made of polished metal and glass, but their use became more widespread. Mirrors from this time period were often used in religious contexts, such as in Christian churches, where they were placed above altars as a symbol of divine light.
In the Islamic world, mirrors were used in decorative objects such as candle holders and mosque lamps and were often decorated with intricate patterns and calligraphy.
In the 16th century, Venetian glassmakers developed a technique for creating large, flat mirrors by coating glass with a thin layer of metallic silver. These mirrors were often framed with elaborate designs and used in the homes of wealthy nobles and aristocrats. In the 17th century, the French glassmaker, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, established a monopoly on mirror production, and his mirrors became famous for their high quality and exquisite beauty.
In the 19th century, advances in manufacturing techniques allowed for the mass production of modern mirrors, making them less aesthetically elaborate, more affordable, and widely available. During this time, mirrors were used in a variety of new contexts, such as in photography, which relied on the reflective properties of mirrors to create images.
However, the 16th century to 17th century period was key for establishing the characteristics of mirrors we now regard as antique today.
In the 16th century, Venice became the center of the mirror-making industry. The Venetian glassmakers were skilled in creating large, flat glass sheets, which were then coated with a thin layer of metal, typically silver or mercury. This technique allowed for the production of large mirrors that were more affordable and accessible than anything that was available before.
These mirrors from the 16th century—which set the tone for what antique mirrors are today—are characterized by their ornate frames and elaborate decorations.
The frames were often made of wood, carved with intricate designs, and covered with gold leaf or other decorative elements. The mirrors themselves were often cut into different shapes, such as ovals or rectangles, and decorated with etchings or engravings.
Moving forward, the popularity of mirrors in this style continued to grow.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, mirror-making became a specialized industry, with craftsmen producing mirrors of exceptional quality and beauty. Mirrors were used not only for personal grooming but also as decorative objects and were often placed in opulent frames made of wood, plaster, or metal.
Antique mirrors from the 17th and 18th centuries are known for their baroque and rococo styles, which featured elaborate decorations, such as intricate scrollwork, floral motifs, and cherubs. These mirrors were often found in the homes of wealthy aristocrats and nobles and were a symbol of status and luxury.
In the 19th century, mirror production became more mechanized, with mass-produced mirrors becoming more common. Despite this, antique mirrors from this time period continued to be made using traditional methods and are prized for their exceptional quality and craftsmanship. These mirrors often featured simpler designs, such as plain glass framed in wood or metal, and were used in various settings, from homes to public spaces.
In the 20th century, mirrors continued to be an important part of interior design, with new materials and designs being introduced. Mirrors made of acrylic, plastic, and other synthetic materials became more common, and modernist designs featuring clean lines and minimal ornamentation became popular.
Today, antique mirrors remain highly valued for their historical and aesthetic significance. They continue to be used in various settings, from private homes to museums and are often considered works of art in their own right.
The unique designs and exceptional craftsmanship of antique mirrors ensure that they will continue to be treasured for generations to come.
Antique Mirror Styles
Antique mirrors come in a variety of styles, each with its own unique characteristics and decorative elements.
Some antique mirror styles are particularly sought after by collectors and can command high prices at auction. For example, Baroque and Rococo mirrors from the 17th and 18th centuries are often highly decorative and elaborate and can be worth significant amounts of money. Georgian mirrors, which are characterized by their simple elegance and fine craftsmanship, are also highly prized by collectors.
Empire mirrors from the early 19th century, which feature neoclassical design elements, are particularly valuable due to their historical significance and association with the French Empire.
Art Nouveau mirrors, with their flowing, organic designs, can also be highly sought after, particularly those from famous makers such as Tiffany Studios.
Art Deco mirrors from the 1920s and 30s are also popular with collectors, particularly those with bold colors and geometric shapes. However, unlike some other antique mirror styles, Art Deco mirrors can be relatively affordable, particularly those from less well-known makers or in less perfect condition.
Overall, the value of an antique mirror is ultimately determined by supply and demand, as well as factors such as rarity, condition, and aesthetic appeal. While some antique mirror styles may be more valuable than others, each style offers its own unique beauty and historical significance, making them a cherished addition to any collection or interior décor.
Here is a rundown of some of the most popular antique mirror styles:
Baroque: This ornate style originated in Italy in the 17th century and is characterized by elaborate decorations such as scrollwork, floral motifs, and cherubs. Baroque mirrors are often made of gilded wood and feature asymmetrical designs.
Rococo: Rococo mirrors emerged in France in the early 18th century and are known for their intricate, organic designs. They often feature delicate scrollwork, asymmetrical shapes, and floral motifs. Rococo mirrors are typically made of gilded wood or plaster.
Georgian: This style emerged in England in the early 18th century and is characterized by a more restrained and symmetrical design. Georgian mirrors typically feature rectangular or oval shapes and are made of mahogany or other fine woods. The frames are often simple, with elegant moldings and carvings.
Regency: Regency mirrors were popular in England in the early 19th century and are known for their clean lines and simple elegance. They often feature rectangular or oval shapes and are made of mahogany, rosewood, or other fine woods. Regency mirrors typically have minimal decorative elements, such as simple moldings or beveled edges.
Empire: This style emerged in France in the early 19th century and is characterized by its neoclassical design elements. Empire mirrors often feature classical motifs, such as columns or laurel wreaths, and are made of gilded wood or bronze. They typically have a rectangular or oval shape.
Art Nouveau: Art Nouveau mirrors were popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and are known for their flowing, organic designs. They often feature floral or nature-inspired motifs and are made of materials such as brass, copper, or stained glass. Art Nouveau mirrors typically have a more asymmetrical shape.
Art Deco: Art Deco mirrors were popular in the 1920s and 30s and are known for their geometric shapes and sleek, streamlined designs. They often feature bold colors and materials such as chrome, glass, and Bakelite. Art Deco mirrors can have a variety of shapes, from rectangular to round to abstract.
Most Valuable Antique Mirrors
Antique mirrors can be incredibly valuable, particularly those that are rare, well-preserved, and from sought-after periods or makers. The value of an antique mirror depends on a variety of factors, including its age, condition, rarity, provenance, and aesthetic appeal.
Some antique mirrors have sold for millions of dollars at auction, particularly those from famous makers or associated with historical figures or events. For example, a Venetian mirror from the 17th century sold for $5.6 million at a Christie’s auction in 2011, while a mirror belonging to Marie Antoinette sold for $51.2 million in 2018.
However, not all antique mirrors are worth such exorbitant amounts.
Many antique mirrors can be relatively affordable, particularly those from less sought-after periods or makers or those that are damaged or in need of restoration. As with any antique, the value of an antique mirror is ultimately determined by the market and the willingness of buyers to pay for it.
Regardless of their value, antique mirrors are prized for their historical and aesthetic significance and are often considered to be works of art in their own right. They offer a unique window into the past, and their craftsmanship and design continue to inspire and captivate collectors and enthusiasts around the world.
Nevertheless, Mirrors have always been a symbol of luxury and beauty. Throughout history, there have been many magnificent and expensive mirrors that have been highly coveted by collectors and enthusiasts alike, resulting in exorbitant price tags.
In terms of monetary value, here are some of the most valuable antique mirrors in the world.
The specimens we have highlighted in this list are from the records of auctions—including private auctions and semi-private events—carried out by Sotheby’s and Christie’s, two of the world’s foremost auction houses.
The Marie Antoinette Mirror
Finalized Auction Price: $51.2 million
The most expensive mirror ever sold is the Marie Antoinette Mirror, which sold for a staggering $51.2 million at a Sotheby’s auction in 2018. This mirror was commissioned by Queen Marie Antoinette in the late 18th century, and it features intricate rococo designs that were typical of the era.
The mirror is named after Marie Antoinette, the last queen of France, who was famous for her extravagant lifestyle and taste for luxury items.
This piece was originally commissioned by Marie Antoinette in the 18th century as part of a larger set of furniture for her private chambers at the Palace of Versailles. The mirror was created by the French furniture maker Martin Carlin and featured elaborate neoclassical designs that were popular at the time.
The mirror’s frame is made of gilded wood and features intricate carvings of acanthus leaves, rosettes, and other decorative elements. The mirror itself is made of high-quality mercury glass and is surrounded by a series of smaller mirrors that create a dazzling effect when light is reflected off of them.
The mirror remained in possession of the French royal family until the French Revolution.
After Marie Antoinette was executed during the French Revolution, the mirror and other items from her private collection—amongst other valuable treasures—were seized and sold off to pay off the country’s debts.
The mirror eventually ended up in the collection of the billionaire businessman and philanthropist J. Paul Getty, who displayed it in his museum in California.
After Getty’s death, the mirror was sold at auction in 2018 to an undisclosed buyer for the record-breaking price of $51.2 million.
The mirror remains the most valuable and sought-after antique mirror in the world today. Its rich history and association with one of history’s most iconic figures only add to its allure. The mirror’s high price can be attributed to its historical significance and royal provenance, as well as its exquisite craftsmanship and ornate design.
The Harriman-Judd Mirror
Finalized Auction Price: $11.7 million
The Harriman-Judd Mirror is a rare and exquisite antique mirror that was sold at an auction in 2011 for a staggering $11.7 million, making it one of the most expensive mirrors ever sold. The mirror has a fascinating history that has contributed to its high value and rarity.
The mirror is named after two of its most famous owners: Edward Henry Harriman and Dr. Walter Judd. Edward Harriman was a railroad magnate and one of the wealthiest men in America at the turn of the 20th century. Dr. Walter Judd was a physician and congressman representing Minnesota in the US House of Representatives.
The mirror itself is a breathtaking example of Rococo design, which was popular in France during the mid-18th century. It features a stunning frame made of gilt bronze and is adorned with intricate carvings of acanthus leaves, scrolls, and other decorative elements.
The Harriman-Judd Mirror is also notable for its size. It stands nearly 10 feet tall and over 6 feet wide, making it one of the largest mirrors of its kind. It is believed to have been commissioned by a member of the French royal court, possibly King Louis XV himself.
The mirror passed through several prominent collections before being acquired by Edward Harriman in the early 1900s. Harriman was an avid collector of art and antiques, and the mirror became one of the centerpieces of his collection. After Harriman’s death, the mirror was acquired by Dr. Walter Judd, who displayed it in his home in Minnesota.
In 2011, the mirror was auctioned to an anonymous buyer for $11.7 million, making it one of the most expensive mirrors ever sold. The Harriman-Judd Mirror remains a highly coveted piece among collectors and is a testament to the enduring appeal of antique mirrors.
The Château de Groussay Mirror
Finalized Auction Price: $7.2 million
The Château de Groussay Mirror is a unique and rare antique mirror that was sold at a Christie’s auction in 1999 for a staggering $7.2 million, making it one of the most expensive mirrors ever sold. The mirror has a rich and fascinating history that has contributed to its high value and rarity.
The mirror was created in the mid-18th century and is a prime example of French Rococo design. It features an ornate giltwood frame that is adorned with intricate carvings of flowers, leaves, and other decorative elements. The mirror’s frame is also decorated with a series of finely crafted porcelain flowers, which add to its beauty and uniqueness.
The Château de Groussay Mirror is named after the château in which it was housed for many years. The château was owned by the French aristocrat Carlos de Beistegui, who was known for his exquisite taste and love of luxury items. The mirror was one of Beistegui’s most prized possessions and was displayed prominently in his grand salon.
After Beistegui’s death, the mirror passed through several prominent collections before being acquired by a private collector at the Christie’s auction in 1999. The mirror’s unique combination of Rococo design and porcelain elements, combined with its association with one of France’s most legendary aristocrats, has made it a highly coveted piece among collectors.
Today, the Château de Groussay Mirror remains one of the most valuable antique mirrors in the world, with its high price tag reflecting not only its beauty and rarity but also its rich and fascinating history.
The David Roentgen Mirror
Finalized Auction Price: $4.8 million
The David Roentgen Mirror is a magnificent example of craftsmanship from the 18th century. This mirror was sold at Christie’s auction in 2012 for a staggering $4.8 million. It has a remarkable history that adds to its value and beauty.
The mirror was created by the famous German cabinet maker David Roentgen, who was renowned for his fine craftsmanship and attention to detail. Roentgen’s work was highly sought after by royalty and aristocrats across Europe, and his pieces remain highly prized by collectors today.
The David Roentgen Mirror is a stunning example of Roentgen’s work. It features an intricate marquetry design that incorporates exotic woods, mother-of-pearl, and other precious materials. The mirror’s frame is also adorned with finely crafted ormolu mounts and decorative elements, which add to its beauty and elegance.
The mirror is believed to have been created in the late 18th century for the Elector of Cologne, who was one of Roentgen’s most important patrons. The mirror was later owned by the Duke of Newcastle, who was a prominent collector of art and antiques.
The David Roentgen Mirror’s association with these prominent figures adds to its value and historical significance. The mirror’s exceptional quality and design have also made it highly prized by collectors, and it remains one of the most valuable antique mirrors ever sold.
The David Roentgen Mirror is a testament to the skill and artistry of one of the most renowned cabinetmakers of the 18th century. Its exquisite design, precious materials, and rich history make it a highly coveted piece among collectors and an enduring symbol of the beauty and elegance of antique mirrors.
The Dragon Mirror
Finalized Auction Price: $4.6 million
The Dragon Mirror is a fascinating and highly valuable antique mirror that was sold at a Christie’s auction in 2013 for $4.6 million. The mirror is unique because of its rare combination of Chinese and European design elements.
This mirror dates back to the Qing Dynasty, and it features intricate dragon designs that are highly coveted by collectors.
The mirror was created in the 18th century and features an elaborate frame adorned with intricate dragons and other Chinese-inspired decorative elements. The frame is made of giltwood and is highly detailed, featuring both openwork and relief carving.
The Dragon Mirror’s exquisite design and craftsmanship are a testament to the fusion of Eastern and Western cultures. The mirror was likely created in China for export to Europe, where it would have been highly prized by wealthy collectors who admired the exotic and luxurious design.
The Dragon Mirror’s association with both Chinese and European culture has made it highly sought after by collectors from both regions. Its rarity and exceptional quality have also contributed to its high value.
Today, the Dragon Mirror remains one of the most valuable antique mirrors ever sold. Its unique design, cultural significance, and exceptional craftsmanship make it a highly coveted piece among collectors of antique mirrors and decorative arts.
The Drouot Mirror – $2.5 million
Finalized Auction Price: $2.5 million
The Drouot Mirror is a stunning antique mirror that was sold at a Christie’s auction in 2010 for $2.5 million. It is an exceptional example of French design from the 18th century, featuring exquisite details and a rich history.
The mirror was created by French craftsmen in the mid-18th century and featured a rectangular frame made of gilded wood. The frame is adorned with intricate carvings of flowers, leaves, and other decorative elements, which are characteristic of the Rococo style that was popular during this period.
The Drouot Mirror’s association with the famous French auction house Drouot adds to its historical significance. The mirror was originally owned by the auction house and was part of their collection of fine art and antiques.
In addition to its historical and cultural significance, the Drouot Mirror is also highly valued for its exceptional quality and craftsmanship. The mirror’s intricate details and ornate design have made it a highly sought-after piece among collectors of antique mirrors and decorative arts.
Today, the Drouot Mirror remains one of the most valuable antique mirrors ever sold, a testament to the skill and artistry of the craftsmen who created it and the rich history and culture it represents.
The Wrightsman Mirror
Finalized Auction Price: $1.8 million
The Wrightsman Mirror is a stunning antique mirror that was sold at a Christie’s auction in 2018 for $1.8 million. It is an exceptional example of French design from the 18th century, featuring exquisite details and a rich history.
The mirror was created by French craftsmen in the mid-18th century and featured an oval-shaped frame made of gilded wood. The frame is adorned with intricate carvings of flowers, leaves, and other decorative elements, which are characteristic of the Rococo style that was popular during this period.
The Wrightsman Mirror’s association with Jayne Wrightsman, an American art collector, and philanthropist, adds to its historical significance. Wrightsman was known for her passion for French decorative arts, and her collection included many exceptional examples of 18th-century French furniture and decorative objects.
The mirror was part of a larger set of furniture that was installed in the home of art collector Jayne Wrightsman, and it was sold at auction after her death.
In addition to its historical and cultural significance, the Wrightsman Mirror is also highly valued for its exceptional quality and craftsmanship. The mirror’s intricate details and ornate design have made it a highly sought-after piece among collectors of antique mirrors and decorative arts.