mercury / antique mirror

jenny1971November 3, 2011

i have a beautiful large carved antique mirror, it does not have a back on it and i have noticed that the mercury is coming off the mirror into small balls.

should i get rid of the mirror? is there a way that the mirror back can be covered up?

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patty_cakes

Was mercury used on mirrors years ago~~I didn't know that. You could cut a piece of very thin balsa wood for the backing.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2011 at 8:53PM
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sunnyca_gw

In H.S. the teacher had some mercury & passed it around, it was great fun to "play" with. So far I haven't had cancer so I doubt it is very dangerous.That was over 50 yrs ago. I have also cleaned up several broken thermometers & in last 5 yrs 3 spiral bulbs as the little lamp sometimes got pulled on & fell on carpet & broke.I would think it is a silver mirroring stuff that is coming off. Can't remember what it is called. They can re-mirror glass so might have a do -it -yourself product.Think it might be called re-silvering??Jan

    Bookmark   November 3, 2011 at 9:58PM
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jemdandy

Mercury is a poison to vital organs. It is harmless unless it invades the body in some manner. The worst is breathing mecury vapor because this is a direct route to the bloodstream via the lungs. Most of us can escape the danger of contact on the hands by a small amount for a very short period provided you have enough skin oil to keep it out. But then, there is always a chance it may penetrate somewhere.

A couple of centuries ago, mecury poisoning was an occupational hazard for hatters and gold ore processors. Think of the Mad Hatter in "Alice in Wonderland". This was not a made-up character; It was a true representation of a hatter who had been mercury poisoned. His brain had been ruined.

Way back then, mercury was used to block hats. A hot piece of steamed felt was placed over a wood mold and mercury poured in. The weight of the mercury pulled the felt into the mold to form the bowl of a hat. Soon, the hatter would go 'mad' from brain damage.

In the case of ore processing, the reduced and ground gold ore was treated with mercury to extract the gold. Gold is soluble in mercury. The mercury liquor is drained off and the next chore is ot separte the gold from the mecury which is difficult to do. This was doen by heating the mix. The mercury was boiled off leaving behind gold. This was done in a retort so that the mercury could be reovered and used again. The hazard was leaks. Any mercury vapor was dangerous.

Old time gold prospectors sometimes accidently poisoned themselves with mercury when the used mercury to check for gold. One way to do this was to hollow out a potato, fill the center with the mercury liquor, bind the halves together and place it in a campfire. The next step was critical. You go away, wait for the fire to burn out and the ember to cool, and then return to check the chared potato, If your sample contained gold, there would be a small amount of gold inside the burned potato.

Mercury does have a small vapor pressure at room temperature. Consult a handbook of Physics or Chemstry to find the amount. Precision reading of a mercury barometer requires a compemsation calculation of the mercury vapor above the mercury column. The error is small at room temperature, but measurable.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2011 at 1:07AM
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Jccn010

I found out this mirror is from the late 1930's - 1940's I just want to know if it was worth anything.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2013 at 1:41AM
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chibimimi

jccn, there are many people who collect old hand mirrors. Check on Etsy to get a feel for prices (remember, these are offering prices, not sold prices).

Before you try to see it, though, check it thoroughly to see if it is marked "sterling" or "925." If so, the metal is sterling silver and has intrinsic value in itself. Not that I suggest melting it down! Collectors of hand mirrors especially like the sterling ones!

Is the glass beveled? Is the silvering in good shape?

    Bookmark   December 11, 2013 at 7:18PM
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dotz_gw

Are you sure its from the 30s or 40s? I have an identical one, purchased at CVS drug store a few years ago at The Christmas clearance for just a few dollars...Unless the one from the drug store was copied after an older design...

    Bookmark   December 15, 2013 at 1:43PM
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dotz_gw

Are you sure its from the 30s or 40s? I have an identical one, purchased at CVS drug store a few years ago at The Christmas clearance for just a few dollars...Unless the one from the drug store was copied after an older design...

    Bookmark   December 15, 2013 at 1:44PM
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